Effective advocacy is informed by a set of principles. Citizen Advocacy is no different. As we discussed in the 1st June post, fundamentally, advocates need to be independent. This is especially true when a protégé’s life is surrounded by formal paid service requiring an advocate to see themselves as completely independent of those structures.
They will not receive any payment or any kick-back for their advocacy. A citizen advocate will not be receiving course credits for being an advocate or time off with pay from an employer for being an advocate. Each of these would initiate third party inducements to conduct the advocacy a certain way or in a certain direction. The advocacy would likely only last as long as the inducement.
Citizen advocacy is free, remaining independent in order to be effective.
Another nuance to this principle is how the advocate represents and gives voice the protégé’s perspective. Other parties can bring formidable impressions reflective of their own expedient interests (in spite of any claims to the contrary) that do not favour the protégé’s interests. It will be the citizen advocate who seeks to define the situation uniquely from the protege’s perspective. In other words, the advocate is loyal to the protégé.
That is why citizen advocates need to be careful that their association and interactions with staff and service leaders do not compromise their protégé’s perspective and their loyalty to the protégé and their interests. They are in their corner and no one else’s.
Check out Maggie and Ronda’s story of one such relationship that illustrates what an independent citizen advocate can achieve.