The Geography of Disability Justice Advocacy

Anytime we build a disability justice advocacy strategy, we use some process to lay it out in a way very similar to mapping a journey. While we tend to focus on the specific procedures that we will use to implement an advocacy initiative, we actually create a kind of spatial CAS that is fractal and could conceivably extend to the entire disability community globally.

The usual way we do this makes the actual impact of our advocacy largely implicit except for the focus of our procedural advocacy. This has the effect of making it more difficult to see the impact of our advocacy (for better or worse) outside the limits of our perception of procedural actions.

When we implement an operational plan as a strategy, this limited perception of the dynamic of our advocacy is a major source for the unintended consequences which often follow.

One way to help avoid this trap is to recognize the more and less abstract nature of the system we are affecting, so we can deliberately include the dynamic context of our advocacy as we develop our strategy. Doing this requires real reflection and dialogue, mostly because we aren’t in the habit of taking the extra time to deepen our understanding. We are also not inclined to take into account those barriers and trends in the larger environment and not directly a part of our advocacy plan activities.

Individuals involved in an advocacy initiative tend to have a “most comfortable” role in pursuing advocacy outcomes. We all choose a level of engagement for any system with which we interact, a level with which we are comfortable, and which reflects our strengths in advocacy. In the Disability Justice Community, people are commonly:

  • Tactical engagers: Procedural problem solvers. Use of bricolage to develop tactics. Solve big problems by repeating successful tactics.
  • Operational Engagers: Link tactics through organizing. Logic Model solutions to problems. Required alignment realized through coordination. Coordination is viewed as the imposition of rule-based common procedures.
  • Strategic Engagers: Viewing the dynamics of a system as though from the outside. Focusing on the larger trends, to the exclusion of individual problem solutions.

As you can probably imagine, such distinct roles in an advocacy initiative can produce very real conflicts over every aspect of planning, outcomes or any other part of advocacy must be made coherent (not aligned, just understandable across the different roles).

So, “geography” in advocacy has several dimensions:

  • An abstract dimension from Tactics, through Operations, to Strategy. This is not some kind of control or logical hierarchy. It is a difference of focus, and doesn’t imply that one kind of abstraction is “better” than another. Rather, people are more comfortable with one kind of abstraction than another.
  • A scope dimension that reaches out from the focus of advocacy to the unexpected consequences unseen by the attainment of the immediate advocacy outcomes.
  • A coordinative reach dimension, which reflects how coherent your dynamic communication is among the roles in the advocacy work.

Creating a way to act across all of these dimensions coherently needs to be the expanding project of disability justice advocacy.

Next: Scaling Disability Justice Advocacy


Author: disabilitynorm

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