What do Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill and Melinda Gates, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosalynn Carter all have in common? They are all known for their outstanding advocacy, in the areas of civil rights (King), world hunger and poverty (Gates), women’s rights (Anthony), and mental health (Carter).
Although these famous icons have helped bring about positive change on a national or global scale, all of us can be effective advocates for many different causes to improve society and the human condition.
Advocates come from all walks of life. Some are seasoned professionals, but many are volunteers who speak from their life experience and who have overcome significant obstacles. Advocates may speak up for themselves and/or for the benefit of others. While some work alone, most form groups or coalitions to advance their agendas. Many advocates focus on the legislative arena to change policies and laws.
What’s your advocacy aptitude?
Perhaps you’re already an experienced advocate. Or maybe you’ve considered getting more involved in promoting a cause that’s near and dear to you. In either case, here’s a simple (and totally unscientific) “advocacy aptitude” quiz to see if you have some of the qualities often seen in outstanding advocates. Simply read each item and answer “TRUE” or “FALSE.”
ADVOCACY APTITUDE QUIZ
1) I’m truly passionate about the causes I believe in. TRUE or FALSE
Passionate: Great advocates have an enduring commitment to the causes that are personally meaningful to them. They exude enthusiasm and will never hesitate to tell you why their cause is an important one.
2) I don’t give up easily on the causes I support. TRUE or FALSE
Persistent: Terrific advocates are determined, dogged, and loyal to the initiatives they are fighting for. They don’t give up easily, and work continually to promote the goals they deem important.
3) I’m well informed about the issues I advocate for. TRUE or FALSE
Knowledgeable: Top-notch advocates are highly informed about their issues and always want to learn more to stay current as new information becomes available.
4) I enjoy educating others about the causes I support. TRUE or FALSE
Teachers: The most effective advocates are wonderful educators. They enjoy teaching others about their causes, thus bringing increased attention and awareness to their efforts.
5) I like to influence others to gain support for my cause. TRUE or FALSE
Persuasive: Often seen as assertive catalysts for change, excellent advocates use their influence to advance their advocacy agenda. They aren’t afraid to ask the “hard questions” and keep pushing steadily toward their goals.
6) I enjoy connecting with others to advance my cause. TRUE or FALSE
Networkers: Great advocates are skilled in making important connections with others who can help move their cause forward. They know how to build groups and coalitions to increase the strength of their message.
7) I know compromise is sometimes needed to reach my goals. TRUE or FALSE
Flexible: The best advocates know that compromises or partial victories can be an important milestone toward achieving their ultimate goals. It’s better to move one step forward than to not move at all.
8) I treat others with respect as I work to further my cause. TRUE or FALSE
Respectful: Sensitive and compassionate advocates always treat others with respect and dignity as they promote their cause. They know it’s counterproductive to be rude, insensitive, or disrespectful.
Quiz Scoring and Interpretation: The more items you answered “TRUE,” the more likely you are to be an effective advocate. For any items you answered “FALSE,” stop and think about how you could modify your thoughts or behaviors in order to make those qualities more consistent for you.
Take the next step
If you’re new to advocacy but have many of the qualities of excellent advocates, now may be the time to take the next step. Here are a few options to consider:
- Think about causes which are personally important to you and those you care about.
- Do some research and find out more about like-minded groups or organizations.
- Contact established advocates and discover ways to get involved.
- Attend an informational meeting to see if the cause is a good fit for you.
- Volunteer some time and meet others who can mentor you as you get started.
Advocacy can be a very rewarding pursuit. As you work to promote worthwhile initiatives, you’ll gain satisfaction from making a difference and leaving a positive legacy. As Helen Keller said, “I am only one, But still I am one. I cannot do everything, But still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
The need is great. There are countless opportunities. Get involved. Do it now.
Postscript: To see my personal Twitter list of over 500 outstanding mental health advocates, click here!
Here’s a question: What can you do to get more involved in advocacy right now? Please leave a comment. Also please consider subscribing to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!