Systems Advocacy

Combining Systems-Advocacy and Individual-Level Advocacy

Advocacy efforts are generally classified as either individual-based—working specifically with or on behalf of individuals to ensure access to resources and opportunities—or systems-based, which entails advocating to change and improve institutional responses. In reality, many advocacy efforts involve both working to change systems and assisting individuals simultaneously. The Community Advocacy Project was designed to do exactly this, by providing numerous individualized advocacy interventions with the intention of ultimately creating community-level change. For example, advocates would send letters to the local police chief either commending or criticizing an officer’s performance as appropriate. Other community service providers were doing this as well, and the police chief commented at a local meeting that such letters had led to specific policy changes in the department.

Sometimes the advocacy supervisors worked on systems-level change while advocates were working with their individual families. For instance, it became clear over time that workers within the county Friend of the Court office (responsible for handling child visitation and child support issues) were unlikely to take domestic violence into account when mandating mediation between couples and when determining child visitation. The advocacy supervisors documented a number of cases where this had occurred, and took this information to a senior-level manager. Policy changes were implemented and the advocacy supervisors noted advocates having fewer such problems over time. These are just two examples illustrating how the project was determined to focus on the community’s responsibility to respond effectively to women with abusive partners.