What Advocacy Strategy Is and Isn’t

This post is a basic overview of the dimensions of strategy that can impact our choices in advocacy approaches and community organizing:

Any Strategy is an integration of the ways (methods), means (resources of all kinds), and ends (the whys) of your advocacy. This integration provides you with a strategic web of meaning that helps you make decisions about your advocacy especially when the inevitable uncertainty of the future and scarcity of resources tests your limits.

  • The coherent integration of ways, means, and ends is your theory of victory
  • The context of your strategy is your Grand Strategy even if you never think about it, or your theory of security, how you keep the doors open and your advocacy continuing.
  • Your theory of victory requires decision-making heuristics (rules of thumb) based on the web of meaning created in your coherent integration, in a context of uncertainty and scarce resources.

What a strategy is not:

  • Strategy is not a simple extension of successful tactics.
  • A strategy is not a big complex operational plan.
  • A strategy is not a SWOT analysis

Defining levels of advocacy strategy implementation:

  • A Tactic is a plan for making a measurable change. It has a start and a stop.
  • An operation is a network of coordinated tactics, and can be judged to be more or less coherent. Whatever planning goes into an operation, once it starts, it will have to be modified on the fly.

So, since significant advocacy plans never survive the beginning of the CAS disruption effort intact, the implementation becomes a dynamic intentional complex adaptive system for the duration of the advocacy effort, ever shifting, and full of surprises.

Examples of Strategies:

  • Western Allies “Unconditional Surrender” in WWII: In WWI, the strategy was to force combatants to sign a peace treaty. Because this was so ineffective at preventing WWII, unconditional surrender became the guide to decision-making. This choice of strategy increased war deaths and injuries by a large amount, but stopped the post war combatant rearming, at least for a while.
  • Local disability organizing of complementary services and supports to The System. Such a strategy allows for the incremental expansion of an alternative support system while maintaining pressure on the current system to improve. This is a more resilient long-term strategy in the face of political and funding cycles, and the passive acceptance of how The System sees itself today.
  • Imagine two 6-month-old fraternal twins using different approaches to getting to and playing with a ball that has sounds and lights. One might choose an approach of careful movements, with lot of checking to see if the ball is closer; the other might choose an approach of wild, large movements, also checking less often to reorient and continue to move closer. Both achieve their goal, but the implicit learning they do is different and points to a difference in personal strategy, that we might call temperament or personality in other circumstances.
  • Intention is often viewed as a strategy. Intention creates a specific explicit outcome, and a possibility space of various potential choices. The strategy lies in the possibility space, not the outcome.

To expand and deepen the impact of the disability social justice agenda, our strategy must include the following dimensions:

  • Viewing The Health Care Industrial Complex (HCIC) as a box of tools rather than a source of solutions to healthcare and social support.
  • Organizing around the creation of real time supports that can respond to the extensive lack of such in the HCIC without allowing the HCIC to absorb them. If we allow the NCIC to absorb our alternate support system, bureaucratic and elite logic will alter that system in destructive and devaluing ways.

Keep this basic framework in mind as we go forward.

Next: The Geography of Disability Justice Advocacy

Author: disabilitynorm

hubby2jill, advocate50+yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, Tom and Pepper the wundermutts