In a divisive world: advocate and be merry

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Let’s face it, with a handful of interests from all over, there are more opportunities to disagree on than otherwise. Arriving at a consensus, particularly in public policy, is no easy feat, especially on advocacies we feel strongly about. At some point, everyone has advocated at least once in their life. Back when you were in university, you probably might have written the student’s discipline office when you prodded them to change the dress code or challenged a proposal at work.

In trying to win an advocacy, it’s not all about your gift of gab. Eloquently spoken words surely make people listen. But engaging people needs some real groundwork and commitment, that is if you want policy makers to take your side of the fence.

What exactly is an advocacy and how would you relate it to lobbying? Does everyone have an advocacy worth lobbying for? Are advocacies created out of sheer concern or is it just a hobby for some?

Advocacy is defined as an activity by an individual or groups to influence decisions, may it be economic, political or social. You name it, there might be an advocacy on it. From issues on the economy, climate to women’s rights, advocacies are here for ages and for so long as there are interests, there are advocacies.

In a recently held forum mostly attended by vape enthusiasts — they are advocating for a strengthened dialogue and for clearer and equitable legislation on vaping. Advocacies are not limited to what you always hear on the news or read on the daily.
Most of the time, when advocacies meet policies, we to turn to lobbying so that the voice gets heard loud and clear.

At the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, our advocacies are mostly sectoral and the range comes in different shapes and sizes. For one, we advocate primarily for the competitiveness and development of small and medium enterprises (SME). At the chamber, we recognize the need to support SME so that they reach their full potential. There are challenges that hamper the growth of SME and we advocate that these challenges be addressed.

I myself handle a sectoral committee at the chamber on intellectual property (IP). At the chamber’s IP, we work on advocacies that help IP development and protection gain the necessary appreciation and respect, not only in the business community, but everywhere. I remember back in 2011 when the chamber supported the Intellectual Property Office Philippines and lobbied for the accession of the Philippines to the Madrid Protocol, which allows trademark owners to seek protection in different countries party to the Protocol, by filing a single application.

It was no walk in the park as there are many advocacies involved pro and con the accession.

But lobbying for an advocacy you believe in should never be daunting. Some things really do not come easy, especially when you want to please everybody. So, the number one rule in advocacy is not to please people (or institutions), but to champion a cause.

Nowadays, advocating for your cause does not take too many resources. As things go digital, it takes along with it a whole plethora of age-old activities and professions. Seasoned diplomat Tom Fletcher in his book The Naked Diplomat, related how diplomacy works in the digital age. I guess it goes with advocating and lobbying, too.

With a video uploaded online, in merely hours, your advocacy can reach a thousand viewers from all walks of life, anywhere where there is Internet connectivity, which is practically everywhere these days.

Engaging people to your cause becomes a breeze because of our interconnected world. And with an advocacy, the goal is to get people, especially legislators and regulators, to hear what you have to say.

Policies are not crafted overnight or single-handedly at that. It takes a village to raise a child they say. It takes a village too, to get a policy under way.

Being armed with an advocacy is not merely for show, it should not be. With all the divisiveness around, it is easy to shove down what you believe in on other people’s throats.

And that is not an advocacy if you ask me. We have to find a common ground, areas we can work around together. While it is great to have your side winning, advocating should mean effecting change that transcends all sides of the spectrum.

What are your thoughts?

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