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Social Media Platforms for Advocacy
Social media is changing lives around the world, helping old friends reconnect and allowing people to share dancing cat videos with millions. People spend hours each day on social media platforms, using them to stay informed, share opinions, post photos, sign petitions, link articles and much more. There is potential to build incredible momentum for a movement and truly engage people by using social media platforms for advocacy efforts.

Your personal sharing, liking, retweeting and posting may seem like they aren’t creating enormous ripples of change, but research has found that content shared by individuals is shared 25 times more and receives eight times more engagement than content shared by organizations themselves. Social media has the ability to amplify a message, allowing great organizations to be introduced to new people and mobilizing communities to give to or advocate for a certain cause. So how can individuals focus social media attention on advocacy efforts and better the world through their news feeds?

Sharing is caring
The community of people you’re friends with or who follow you are those who care about you and are interested in what you have to say. If you show them that you care by sharing and posting about certain causes, they are more likely to engage with that content than if it was posted by an organization on their feed. Since people actually know who you are, things you share and post come off as more trustworthy and real. To this effect, find articles and organizations that matter to you and highlight their efforts. You are the most relatable person for people engaging with your social media, and that can powerfully increase mobilization.

#UseThatHashtag
While they may not always seem effective, intentionally using hashtags can really increase how many people interact with posts. Hashtags create networks of posts, linking them together into a common thread, and this is a great way to reach diverse groups on social media platforms for advocacy. Creating a specific hashtag that a person or organization always uses can help people learn about causes you’re passionate about, and adding information about an issue to a trending hashtag can help spread your message locally and globally.

Turn some heads
A visual appeal can really catch and keep people’s attention. One study found that seeing photos and infographics greatly influenced members of Congress, and others interacting with your postings and shares are equally as interested in nice visuals. By adding photos or cool graphics, your content will better capture people’s attention and enable you to use social media platforms for advocacy. Attaching images can create a 150 percent increase in retweets on Twitter and bring in an 87 percent engagement rate on Facebook, which is great news for mobilizing efforts!

Take that social media work offline
Social media is great for connecting people, but gathering your community offline is powerful, too. Use social media platforms for advocacy by creating events, gathering donations, sharing information and planning meetings, then take that advocacy into the physical world. Online calls to action such as signing petitions and contacting Congressional representatives can transform into in-person meetings with government officials either individually or at town halls, and mobilizing people for your cause can mean sharing through word of mouth or posting physical copies of an infographic around town. Building online engagement into a tangible movement can have an immense impact.

Rather than aimlessly scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr and other social media platforms, infuse some world-improving efforts into your feed and use those social media platforms for advocacy. With such amazing tools available, it is important to increase the intentionality of our scrolling and harness social media platforms for advocacy.

Irena Huang

Photo: Flickr


As more youth in Cambodia become politically aware, the country has seen significant strides by these individuals in advocating for change.

Such advocacy makes sense in light of changing technologies. As Ou Ritthy, the founder of a Cambodian discussion group, states: “Youth have two things: Information — from social media — and smartphones. They are more independent in terms of information.”

Not only has this allowed Cambodia’s youth to become more educated regarding governmental matters, but it has opened up opportunities for political networking. Through applications such as Facebook, these individuals can now unite through common interests. Together, they can plan rallies, organize volunteer efforts or simply instigate debate.

Furthermore, these efforts are having a bigger impact than ever before. As the New York Times reports, “Two-thirds of the population is under 30,” meaning youth in Cambodia now have the greatest capacity to bring about political change.

Student Thy Sovantha serves as one example. Sovantha created a Facebook page and posted Youtube videos supporting Sam Rainsy, the opposing candidate to Cambodia’s current prime minister Hun Sen, during the country’s 2013 elections. Her actions resulted in thousands of followers.

Sovantha is not the only one who opposes Sen, however. Youth protests were widespread during the 2013 elections, and efforts against his rule continue to this day. Cambodia’s elections later this year will be the final determinant of his power.

“The image of Cambodia in the international community has been damaged because they can see that…Cambodia is moving to dictatorship,” comments Ren Chanrith, a member of Cambodia’s Youth Resource Development Programme.

Regardless of Cambodia’s future regarding Sen, it is certain that youth in Cambodia will continue to have a big impact in what lies ahead for the country. This demographic change, combined with new technology, puts Cambodia’s youth at the forefront of politics.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr


Feeling down or uneasy? It could be time to donate to a worthy cause. A growing body of evidence shows a strong correlation between poverty and multiple forms of mental illness, including depression. The good news is that the inverse is also being proven true; reducing poverty improves mental health, not only for those receiving aid but also for those who provide it. Here are some of the most recent findings on how advocacy cures depression:

According to Spring.org, people in the U.S. have become 5 percent less happy over the past decade, despite average household earnings increasing in the same period of time. The same study determined that Norway and Denmark were the happiest countries, compared to America’s position as the 14th happiest.

“I don’t think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness. What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” Meik Wiking, CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute stated by way of explanation. The effects of poverty on depression were shown to be quite clear: the unhappiest countries, which include Liberia, Yemen, Rwanda and Syria are all among the poorest on earth.

The implication of the study seems to add another line to the old adage: money may not be able to buy happiness, but it may be able to buy happiness for someone else in need. Science is discovering that the giver also benefits—one study of 846 people from the American Journal of Public Health found that the act of helping others creates an increased tolerance to stressful life events.

Altruistic acts, such as raising awareness for charitable causes, have been shown to result in numerous psychological and physical health benefits including reducing stress, maintaining a positive life perspective and even boosting longevity.

Crick Lund, University of Capetown psychologist and head of the international consortium called PRIME (Programme for Improving Mental Health Care), is another key researcher in determining how advocacy cures depression. He has dedicated his career to providing mental health treatment for people living in low-income and low-resource areas. His research on the link between poverty and depression is being conducted across five sub-Saharan countries in Africa and is expected to show early results by 2018.

The next time the blues hits, it may be worth considering getting the squad together to volunteer at the local shelter or make a donation to a nonprofit such as The Borgen Project. Since advocacy cures depression, not only will it make life better for someone who truly needs it, it will make the giver feel great too.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

What is an NGO
What is an NGO? The acronym NGO stands for non-governmental organization. With only slightly more specificity, an NGO is any organization, usually non-profit, that operates independently of a government.  Contrary to common usage, the NGO title does not necessarily imply the organization works abroad; NGOs can be local, national, or international.

But apart from these literal definitions, what unique roles do NGOs serve that government aid organizations and corporations do not?

The innumerable NGOs that are working on international humanitarian issues suggest that NGOs can adapt quickly and respond to changing needs faster than government organizations which require executive and electoral approval for action. The Global Journal published a list of the top 100 most influential and effective NGOs, acknowledging famous groups such as OxFam, PATH, and Medicins Sans Frontiers.

These groups’ acclaim comes from consistent and well-organized delivery of critically important services such as medical care, environmental education and advocacy, and human rights protection.

But all NGOs are different and some are met with intense criticism for lack of transparency in budgeting or effectual action. When donating money or looking for work in the NGO world, it is always important to do your research about how much of the group’s budget goes to administrative costs and how much goes directly to the cause you care about. The website Charity Navigator is a useful resource for this.

Another important critique of NGOs is that all too often organizations staffed with Americans and Europeans come into developing nations with action plans that don’t fit the local context and end up adversely affecting their target populations. This, however, is a not an inherent flaw of NGOs but rather a symptom of failing to acknowledge the importance of local expertise within the NGO framework.

Because NGO funding commonly comes from developed nations, a particularly effective model for NGOs includes using local in-country staff to plan and implement programs on the ground while working with an international board focused on fundraising, outreach, and strategic group planning.

It would be untrue to claim that NGOs are immune to political influence simply because they are not directly connected to governments; NGOs’ funding and even daily operations are subject to political approval.

For example, NGOs working to bring amnesty to political refugees will often face intense political adversity, and even violence during their in-country work. But unlike government organizations, NGOs typically have more flexibility to defy a political status quo to pursue what they believe to be important social change.

– Shelly Grimaldi

Sources: Grant Space, Miratelinc
Photo: The Design Inspiration

Importance of Foreign Aid
Here at The Borgen Project, we are often asked why foreign aid is important. Foreign aid can save the lives of millions of people living in poverty around the world. It addresses issues such as health, education, infrastructure and humanitarian emergencies.

Foreign aid is a broad term. In a wide sense, it can be defined as “financial or technical help given by one country’s government to another country to assist social and economic development or to respond to a disaster in a receiving country.”

 

2 Ways Foreign Aid Helps the U.S.

 

donate_poverty
Creates Jobs

 

world_hunger
Improves National Security

 

There are numerous reasons why foreign aid is important to help impoverished countries; discussed below are the six key targets.

 

Top 6 Benefits of Foreign Aid

 

  1. Infrastructure: roads, bridges, institutions and sewer systems get built, giving people the ability to be mobile and have access to basic necessities such as electricity and running water.
  2. Agricultural technology improvements: improvements enter the infrastructure within the agricultural businesses within recipient countries.
  3. Education: classrooms get built, teachers receive training and children gain basic educational needs.
  4. Health: vaccinations, mosquito nets, safe drinking water, access to hygiene education and basic sanitation are all brought in.
  5. Humanitarian issues and natural disaster emergencies: life-saving support comes to those affected and possibly displaced due to natural disasters, emergency shelters are built for people affected by violence, and counseling services are made available.
  6. National security: recipient countries can combat terrorism with the help of foreign aid as it decreases poverty, weak institutions and corruption and can help strengthen good governance, transparency and the economy.

Another reason why foreign aid is important is how it fosters a conducive diplomatic relationship between the donor and the recipient.

Impoverished nations receiving aid can eventually become independent and move towards democratic fundamentals with the help of donor countries.

There are hundreds of different donors of foreign aid. One of the most well-known donors of foreign aid comes in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

It is provided by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation. The ODA provides foreign aid to poor countries in the form of grants and loans.

The ODA is important to impoverished countries as it provides specifically the materials needed to build effective infrastructure and expand educational programs and the access to schools. Additionally, it provides efficient responses to humanitarian emergencies.

One of the most well-known and largest providers of foreign aid is the International Development Association (IDA), which is part of the World Bank. It has 173 shareholders that provide grants and loans to 77 countries around the world, 39 of which are located in Africa.

The main goal of the IDA is to reduce inequalities, increase economic growth and improve the living conditions of those in poverty. These goals are addressed as IDA funds are given directly to the sectors of education, water, sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure.

The IDA provides little to no interest on its grants and loans and allows for a grace period of up to 10 years. It also allows the recipient country to make debt payments of up to 40 years.

Since 1960, the IDA has provided $312 billion in investments in 112 impoverished nations. In the last three years alone, there has been an average of $19 billion in grants and loans.

Foreign aid truly makes a difference to people living in poverty. It provides access to basic necessities and provides people essential conditions for living a peaceful and secure life.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: U.S. Navy

How to find jobs in advocacy

Are you a recent college graduate looking for your first full-time position? An experienced professional looking to make a difference? Or perhaps a high school student wanting to buff up your resume? Well, understanding how to find jobs in advocacy may prove beneficial for you.

Advocacy is the action of generating public support for or recommending a particular cause or policy. One of the ways in which The Borgen Project makes a difference is through advocacy.

By teaching citizens skills on how to communicate with their government, The Borgen Project is able to both generate support for and recommend making global poverty a higher priority for U.S. foreign policy.

Here are five ways on how to find jobs in advocacy so you can begin a fulfilling, challenging career of improving people’s lives:

  1. Find your passion.
    Is there a cause you really believe in? Is there a problem you would like to address? Is there a topic you could talk about for hours and hours?Most employers, whether it’s listed in your cover letter or spoken about in an interview, want to know what motivates you to join their team. They want to know your passion because a passion-less person doesn’t make a good advocate, now does it? Don’t think too hard about it, though.

    While some peoples’ passion may be something specific, like woodcutting or kite flying, yours could be a broader goal such as helping other people.

  2. Reach out to local non-profit organizations.
    There is a very high chance that your community has at least one non-profit organization operating within it. While that non-profit organization may not be directly linked to advocacy, the people volunteering or working there may be able to direct you to other non-profit organizations more advocacy-geared. And if there is a link to advocacy, then you’re in luck.
  3. Search for jobs.
    In this day and age, the internet is your friend and the perfect place to start your advocacy search. You can look at popular websites like idealist.org, indeed.com or thenonprofittimes.com to find the perfect advocacy position for you. Most advocacy positions will be posted by non-profits organizations, local governments and lobbying firms.
  4. Volunteer.
    If you’re not having any luck landing a paid position, consider volunteering. It will not only beef up your resume, but it also has the potential to lead to a paid position in the place you are volunteering.In your volunteer position, your supervisors can get to know you, see how motivated you are to the cause and perhaps find a more permanent fit for you on their team. Building these connections can lead to positions you never even thought possible!

    Additionally, most non-profit organizations operate under a very tight budget so the majority of advocacy positions may be volunteer anyways. Take The Borgen Project for example–we have only 2 full-time and 4 part-time employees but have around 300 volunteers.

  5. Utilize your networks.
    A recent survey revealed that 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. LinkedIn is a great resource that connects you a network of over 400 million people.You can also utilize alumni networks, family and friend networks, and networks found through volunteering or reaching out to organizations. It is also important to keep in mind that networking is not always about meeting as many people as possible, but it is also about meeting a few well-connected people who can vouch for your ability and credibility.

    In the future, these types of connections can refer you to other well-connected people.

While this list is not exhaustive, hopefully, these tips on how to find jobs in advocacy will benefit you in your search.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Youth Advocacy Programs, Inc.

Be an advocateAn advocate can be loosely defined as someone who publicly supports a cause. On a more focused note, the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York defines an effective advocate as one who influences public policy and laws by using different strategies and information to encourage leaders to take action.

Many individuals would like to do their part to make a difference but are not sure where to start. Here are a few tips on how to be an advocate:

Know exactly what you are advocating for.

Conveying your message becomes easier when you immerse yourself into the cause and gain a thorough understanding of what you are supporting.

Garrett Swink, an advocate who uses social media as his primary advocacy tool, immersed himself into his cause by leaving the comfort of his desk and diving into the issues he was passionate about. In an article published by Connectivity, he said that immersion “provided [him] a better understanding of [his] audience and a clearer idea of how to expand it.” Although he advocated for a political figure, the same idea can and should be implemented when advocating for a cause.

Use technology to your advantage.

Online tools, such as social media platforms or YouTube, can help you be the best advocate you can be. In our modern world, technology allows you to spread messages efficiently, effectively and to large numbers of people. Know what technology your audience is mostly likely to use, then rev up the shares, likes, tweets, and posts to get the word out about your cause.

One advocate, Marvin Sapp, wasted no time implementing such modern methods. Sapp utilized the power of technology during his advocacy event by instructing attendees to contact their elected officials about his cause right then and there. In his most recent event, more than 3,500 people whipped out their phones, iPads, tablets and other devices to submit emails to their respective elected officials about supporting the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Boil down your issue and focus your message.

A message that is concise, specific and to-the-point will make a more lasting impact.

One Jerusalem’s website is an example of effective advocacy through clear, well-written content. When creating the message, consider the audience and cater your approach to their skill level or interests. Instead of bouncing around between different approaches or angles to your message, be clear and consistent with the research you present, the solution you propose, and the “call to action” you promote.

Show the audience that you care.

An advocate who personally stands by their message motivates an audience.

Advocates who actually care don’t go unnoticed. Real people who care about real issues and solutions captivate perhaps normally apathetic audiences. Let your personal stories, non-verbals, and understanding of the cause shine through–make it known how invested you are about your message and your audience.

These are a few suggestions on how to be an advocate for a cause that is important to you. Effective advocacy can promote social change and justice in more ways than one. Advocacy is an important method of changing the world for a better tomorrow, and anyone can be an advocate–celebrities, local leaders or anyone passionate enough about a cause to do something about it.

-Julia Hettiger

Photo: Pixabay

Women_EducationThe 4th annual Women Deliver Conference, the largest conference in the world discussing women’s rights and issues, was held on May 16-19 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Women Deliver is an organization that advocates for women’s and girls’ health and well-being. The organization holds conferences and focuses on building partnerships, gaining new allies, and developing and sharing advocacy tools to help others participate in the cause.

Building on the success three previous Women Deliver Conferences, the Conference focuses this year on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) laid out by the United Nations. Specifically, the focus will be on women’s health issues and women’s and girls’ education and economic empowerment.

5,700 policymakers, researchers and advocates participated in what is being called the largest convention to discuss female rights in a decade. People from 2,000 organizations and 169 countries all convened in an effort to bring women and girls to the forefront of the SDGs. Among the participants were journalists, young people and representatives from both the private sector and UN agencies.

This is an important time to bring attention to the SDGs and make progress towards those goals.

In a blog for the Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Daniela Ligiero, Vice President of the Girls and Women Strategy at the United Nations Foundation, explains why now is such an important time to take a real look at female rights.

One of these reasons is that it is important to revitalize the community’s energy in addressing women’s rights. As Dr. Ligiero points out in her blog, the biggest threat to the SDGs is the loss of momentum driving the impetus to find real strategies and solutions for approaching the very real problem of gender inequality around the world.

Additionally, the discussion of women’s rights cannot be limited to Goal 5 of the SDGs, which pertains to gender equality alone. Other goals of the SDGs that focus on education and on health issues must be included in the big picture in order to make real advances for women and girls as a whole.

The Conference provides scholarships for participants to travel to the event and has inspired a lot of participation, with over 5,000 applicants.

The biggest hope for the Women Deliver conference is to take the ambitious goals set forth for improving women’s and girls’ rights and create concrete strategies for accomplishing them.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

What is Advocacy
What is advocacy? Merriam-Webster defines an advocate as someone who “argues for or supports a cause or policy.” Other definitions paint advocates as defenders, either of a cause or of a person. Lastly, an advocate can also be defined as a promoter of another’s interests.

 

What is Advocacy in Terms of Global Poverty?

 

With almost 10 percent of the world’s population living on less that $2 a day, ignoring the global poor is like ignoring someone who is injured and cannot get to their feet.

In the case of the global poor, an advocate is one who supports, defends and promotes the human rights of those suffering in extreme poverty. A person is an advocate when they support policies that aid struggling populations stricken with hunger, disease and a lack of access to education or sanitation.

Eradicating global poverty can seem like a daunting task. Who is equipped to change the world in such a way? Notice that the definition does not say an advocate is an implicit solution to the problem. On the contrary, an advocate is someone who works to find a solution and appeals to the powers that can make a difference.

Today, being an advocate for the global poor does not require immense effort. In fact, it is as easy as sending a few emails and making a few phone calls. By contacting our representatives in Congress and showing our support for foreign aid, we can act as intermediaries for the millions who do not have the means to do so themselves.

Advocacy is more powerful in groups. By spreading awareness of the global poor and demonstrating how easy it is to support their cause, we can multiply our impact. With enough people promoting the same interests, leaders will take notice. If we do not have the power to eradicate poverty on our own, the governments of the world certainly do.

The actions of advocates have had a profound effect. Since 2011, a projected 200 million people are no longer in extreme poverty. Nevertheless, there are still millions more that are crying for help with the hope that someone will take notice and champion their cause.

Emiliano Perez

Photo: Flickr

Half the skyReading a book like Half the Sky illuminates how unfair our world is. Though women make up about half of the world’s population, they are consistently discriminated against, overlooked and are in some cases, treated as second class citizens.

It is not surprising that the authors of Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDonn, are award winning writers for their work in raising awareness about the reality most women face in their countries in relation to discrimination.

Written as a series of essays, this book has two parts. The first part of the essay highlights the oppression and discrimination against women especially in developing countries and how this problem is often overlooked due to corruption, lack of strong justice systems and the patriarchal state of these nations.

The second part focuses on practical ways to create this “movement and effect the change needed” to address these situations.

From the beginning to the end of this enlightening book, it is obvious that the writers are very knowledgeable on their topic of discussion and their work shows extensive research in different areas of discrimination within different locations in developing countries.

From discussing issues such as women being promised work and ending up in sexual slavery and imprisonment, to illuminating health issues within developing countries such as women and girls ending up with fistulas after birth, women dying from HIV and AIDS, women and girls going through female genital mutilation as well as being overlooked in terms of getting an education, this book paints a sad reality of women’s lives in the developing world.

The most fascinating point that arises in the book is the fact that culture is the main catalyst for the way women are treated in their societies. In our dynamic world, culture in the developing countries seems unchangeable, especially in relation to its negative aspects. Another surprising fact in the book is the idea that older women in some of these societies are perpetrators of discrimination towards other younger women in the society.

Here, this is quite a deviation from what the “West” has portrayed in development; the idea that men are the main perpetrators of women’s oppression.

Half the Sky not only raises awareness about the injustices women faces but it also advocates for women to fight for their rights by speaking up and resisting the discrimination they face. Though the book points out a few strong and relentless women like Usha Narayane, Sunitha and Krishna who do exactly this and fight for justice, it highlights that most women in the developing world are vulnerable and are unable to get access to their rights.

Half the Sky is the voice of the vulnerable, uneducated and oppressed women in the developing world.

Vanessa Awanyo

Photo: Google Images

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What to Know: City council’s do nor have the political power to fund U.S. foreign assistance programs (only Congress and the White House do). The purpose of presenting to your local city council is to raise awareness of an issue and ask the council to reach out to Congressional leaders representing your city.

 

Two Minute Pitch Format

 

  • Introduction: State who you are (I’m Joe Smith and I’m here as an ambassador for The Borgen Project. We are a national organization that works to engage citizens locally in efforts to see stronger U.S. leadership go toward improve living conditions.
  • Issue Awareness and Local Connection: “Like many U.S. cities, as global hunger rates were cut in half over the past 20-years, Tulsa has benefited from this. The rising number of consumers worldwide has opened new markets for Tulsa companies.”
  • The Ask: “I’d like to ask the Tulsa City Council to send a letter to Sen. X, Sen. Y and Rep. Z letting them know that the council views global development programs as crucial for creating more consumers globally and new markets for Tulsa’s businesses.”
  • Wrap Up: “Thank you for your time.”

 

Prep:

  • You need to make the local connection of how global poverty-reduction has created new jobs in America and your city especially. Live in a small rural town with few companies? Look up where the local farmers are exporting their products.
  • Bring background material. This will be distributed to the council. Include your contact information.

 

What to Expect? City council meetings are often formal and boring… That being said, they can get very heated and intense. Go in with thick skin. You probably won’t encounter any jerks, but anytime you’re advocating for something there’s often snarky people ready to pounce.

 

You’re Going to Be on TV

borgen-project-old-tv
Most city council meetings are broadcast on TV, so have someone record it for you! The meeting are often re-broadcast throughout the week as well. Send us the video! We love to watch these and will possibly share it on the site!