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The History of Advocacy

How long has advocacy been around, where did it start and where does the word advocate come from?

There isn’t a lot known about the history of advocacy programs or where advocacy began.

Advocacy has not always been considered “advocacy.”A long time ago, back when homo sapiens had barely begun to dominate planet earth, advocacy was considered common courtesy. People lived in large groups and helped each other out when they could.

However, as societies advanced and technology came into the picture, helping others seemed like it required a little too much effort. There is no set “first” advocacy program, but many advocacy programs claim to be the first of their kind.

However, perhaps one of the oldest advocacy programs still alive today is The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army began in 1852 just before The Red Cross, who is a close second and began its work in 1881.

Even before these two giant programs, there were orphanages and safe houses and programs to feed the hungry. Helping one another can be traced back to the very first animals.

Perhaps these earlier instances of advocacy are a little less “public support” and a little more “helping your fellow man,” but humans often learn from their surroundings.

According to the Oxford English dictionary the word advocate was first recorded in the English language in the 1300s as a noun. The word stemmed from the French word avocat and before that the Latin word advocatus.

Advocatus means to be called to or summoned, or more specifically to come to someone’s aid in the courtroom. This could mean the very first public advocacy program in the world involved the beginning of law and lawyers.

However, before lawyers there were churches that fed the hungry and protected the weak. There were armies who helped protect the city people from outside harm. There were people who gave the homeless shelter and the needy possessions and all of them called on others to do the same.

These actions were not considered advocacy the way we know it today. When they first started, these instances were just the act of standing up for someone who could not stand up for nor protect themselves. To speak for someone whose voice was being ignored or could not be heard.

In the beginning, advocacy was not something that had to be bought, bartered or begged for. It was something people did because it was what was right, not because they needed volunteer experience.

Over the years advocacy has morphed into something much different. Today, it is more organized to provide more aid to more people throughout the world that do not have anyone with enough power to provide and aid them nearby. Advocacy has become a global responsibility rather than a local one and needs more funding, more political support and more power to become something even greater.

Now, advocacy makes it everyone’s responsibility to rise to the needs of serious global issues and to help in any way they can.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Grammaphobia, Oxford English Dictionary, The Free Dictionary, The Red Cross, The Salvation Army