Advocate or Activist: What is the best way to effect change?

UBC Dialogues: Toronto

From debates and lobbyists to boycotts and protesters, political action takes many forms. Is there a time and place for righteous indignation? Or is it more effective to engage in dialogue with those we oppose? Join fellow alumni, donors and friends and UBC President, Professor Stephen Toope as he moderates a panel of UBC and community experts who will explore the best way to bring about societal and political change.

2010-11 Event Series Sponsor:

TD Meloche Monnex

Panelists

ModeratorStephen Toope, UBC President

PanelistJacqueline Kennelly, PhD’08, Assistant Professor, Carleton University Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Panelist
Ronald Deibert, BA’88, PhD’95, Associate Professor, University of Toronto Department of Political Science

Podcast

You can listen to a streaming recording of this event below. If you would like to subscribe to our podcast series or download this podcast for later listening, you can access it through iTunes U.

UBC Dialogues: Toronto was held on October 5, 2010 at 99 SUDBURY, Toronto.

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2 thoughts on “Advocate or Activist: What is the best way to effect change?

  1. Someone please comment on what the can summarize from this discussion. Many good questions were posed, the answers did not elevate understanding all that much. The discussion was a good platform to start further discussion. Im disappointed that there is not follow up discussion and hope that the questions that need to be more carefully answered can be summarized then discussed.
    The notion that those with issues should lead the charge for social justice, but they dont have access to the academics “opportunity structures”, and academics want to help, but how should they. Lets take that further. How should universities help: Lets take that further. How to broaden the discussion…lets take that further. Advocacy, and Activism, 2 methods in the toolkit, what are the other methods? Lets elaborate and frame an approach to model how any issue could be managed through a process (framework?)that touches on what was talked about, but not put together in any comprehensive strategic sense.
    If this is about how to make democracy happen, what are the avenues when our MP’s/MLA’s do not have voices in parliament/legislature because of how our leaders and the party system basically run dictatorships. If democracy relies on elected representatives to voice public concerns and then they dont do it, isnt this a failure of democratic process that causes those with specific injustices to resort to activism because participation through the advocacy relies on democracy working? I think this lecture raised so many good questions but the theme needs to be carried further to model how healthy democracies would function to resolve specific issues, vs what we have here, now. What is working? What is not? What methods and strategies to broaden the discussion on WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO EFFECT CHANGE? Advocacy and Activism alone are far too narrow….the broader democratic framework within which these 2 “tools” work should be outlined, and where work is needed, cant that be pointed out by the universities without them being threatened in any way?

  2. Below is a re-write of my too quickly made submission above, to cover off some editing, additional comments and a suggestion.
    —————————————————————————–
    Could readers please comment on what the can summarized from this discussion?

    While many good questions were posed, the answers brought forward did not elevate understanding all that much. The discussion was a good platform to identify key questions. Is there any interest to identify the key questions here, now, to set out as a basis for further discussion? Or else how do you see making some progress on the topic?

    What were the key questions? Add/change this list:

    How to broaden the discussion on any social justice issue? There is the notion that those with issues should lead the charge for social justice, but since they don’t have access to the academics “opportunity structures”, and academics want to help, how can this be enabled? How to open up forums to be more inclusive, how to reach wider, how to stop talking to the same people? How can universities help or are they constrained from helping?

    Examples of creative ways? What is OCAP doing to engage different demographics?
    How to build solidarity between unions and movements?

    How to use technology and social networking?

    People hold contradictory views, but need civic participation, how to enable this?

    There is a “resurgence in civil education…across liberal democracies, not just Canada”, What examples of this and how does this enable change? Is the democratic process being articulated in a way that frames how advocacy and activism work, and how change can be better effected?

    Advocacy, and Activism, 2 methods in the toolkit, what are the other methods? And what is the framework in which these methods operate? Can a whole approach be modeled, to frame how any issue could be managed through a process?

    COMMENT

    Advocacy and Activism WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO EFFECT CHANGE? Does anyone agree that discussing Advocacy and Activism alone are far too narrow….the broader democratic framework within which these 2 “tools” work should be outlined, for context, and where work is needed, that could be pointed out in the larger context. Also discuss the questions above in the larger context.

    What is our starting point? Is what we are talking about how to make democracy happen? If so, can the components be modeled (diagram) to illustrate failure points? What are the avenues for change, when democracy relies on elected representatives to voice public concerns but our MP’s/MLA’s do not have voices in parliament/legislature because our leaders and the party system run a top down dictatorship approach. If we have a failure of democratic process, because our elected representatives can not speak for constituents, does that not cause those with specific issues to resort to activism because participation through the advocacy relies on democracy working? Does it help to frame this discussion in this context? If so, is there any work on there about how democracy is a public policy management system, and when the components and process work, many issues get heard, debated, and addressed in the process?

    It would be useful to take trace an example issue through the democratic process, to illustrate how a social justice issue can be articulated as a policy management process, linking the issue to the players (citizens groups, elected representatives, government, corporations), and the process (policy management system – democratic process), and the tactics (advocacy, activism). Where an issue is of common concern across many user groups, how to achieve synergy between groups, to increase issue importance as it is brought forward for attention could also be discussed.

    I have an example issue. May not be the best one, but used here because it has several elements going on, explained below. Is there any sociology student or ? out there that would like to work on this?

    Issue: funding for B.C. Parks, in general but perhaps concentrate on naturalist interpretation programs and youth crew trail works programs that have been eliminated.
    Problem: elimination of the programs by government cutbacks. Viewed as very short sighted, since the short and long term social costs that exceed the economic costs of funding the programs.
    Policy Objective: Restore funding for these initiatives to
    – promote healthy outdoor lifestyles in the general population to strategically reduce long term health care costs. Proactive, prevention is more cost effective than being reactive.
    Promote education on the environment.
    – decrease youth crime, drugs, graffiti, etc. Build character.
    – promote a sense of connection between citizens and the land base, which is 95% publicly owned.
    Interest groups advocacy: Now with 100 th anniversary of B.C. Parks, there is some cooperation between many groups, in a push to restore funding. A full newspaper add “Running on Empty” was run in local newspapers, aimed at building social capital to help people push together to restore funding to BC Parks. It was signed by 36 interest groups and individuals, including the BC Government Employees Union, and the BC Federation of Labour. A companion article by the Western Canada Wilderness Society and the BCGEU was run as well.
    Use of Internet: U tube video on ecological degradation happening in the Black Tusk Meadows of Garibaldi Park has been developed. Friends of _______ Park organizations are being started up, with websites. Examples, Strathcona Park, soon Garibaldi Park.

    Challenge: How to continue the momentum to engage broader society to push for funding restoration? How to engage health, youth and family groups to come together and support this example target policy area? Can universities help in the process?

    The policy management/revision system of government needs to be transparent, socially responsive and timely. Science-based policy analysis capability in government needs to be strong and transparent and shared, to provide thoughtful decision advice to government. This is a step to avoid bad policy formulation in the first place. What government chooses to implement it politics. Where policy impacts are not clarified, broader society is left to respond, after the fact, through advocacy and activism. Largely our “opportunity structure” is democratic government, isn’t it? That is where the capacity for development of appropriately balanced, sustainable, long-term beneficial, social, economic, environmental policy formulation needs to take place, with public input. When government chooses to cut some things short, it should be for very good reasons.

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