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Many Voices are Greater than One: How you can advocate for the social service workforce to achieve the SDGs

Nicole Brown's picture

In blogs throughout Social Service Workforce Week, we have talked about ways that the social service workforce contributes to the achievement of the SDGs and reasons why we need to be stronger advocates and better support their important work. While there is consensus that more advocacy is needed, where and how to begin is oftentimes a struggle. How do we motivate those who are unaware or not invested in the issue to join our cause?

To help develop a common message tailored to specific audiences, the Global Social Service Workforce has worked with WithoutViolence to develop a Global Advocacy Toolkit for the Social Service Workforce. The Toolkit enables advocates to use the same starting point of facts and messaging to bring about greater political and programmatic priority for strengthening the social service workforce.

The messages and tools within the toolkit draw from research-based insights from behavioral science to offer the most effective strategies for communications and advocacy. The toolkit includes narratives, infographics and fact sheets on why we need greater priority for the social service workforce in order to be able to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Research shows that while data is important to convey the magnitude of an issue, it is the personal story that explains why it is necessary to work together and take action immediately. Decision-makers need to be persuaded to act and feel an extrinsic connection for doing so.

The Toolkit includes a number of worksheets to help you get started on designing an advocacy campaign that will suit your specific setting. Worksheets will help you to identify key audiences and partners, prepare culturally and contextually- targeted messages, draft materials for media distribution, and determine the success of your outreach efforts.

Steps for developing an advocacy outreach campaignThe first step of any advocacy effort is to determine your objective. Objectives should be context- and needs-specific, with realistic and time-bound goals. They must also be measurable and continually refined if not meeting the intended goals. The toolkit includes worksheets on creating a context-specific advocacy outreach plan (page 12) and developing the advocacy objective (page 14).

A next step is determining your target audience. Which group or individuals are you specifically trying to reach with your message? For example, if the objective is to increase funding to be able to hire more trained social service workers, then one of the target audiences may be those working in government roles that make decisions on how funds are allocated within the social welfare or social development departments. The toolkit includes two worksheets to help in identifying the audience (pages 16-17).

After establishing the objective and audience, you can then begin determining the specific message and ways you will reach your audience with that message. Other tools within the Toolkit offer 10 tips for writing and pitching an op-ed to online and print publications; how to write and distribute a press release; a guide for using social media; and example impact stories.

It is also important to involve additional partners in advocacy efforts to have a greater combined impact. With more groups involved in sharing the same message repeatedly, it will begin to have greater resonance with target audiences.

You will next need to decide what types of advocacy tools you will use. Will your campaign rely on social media? Will you be organizing meetings or conferences or preparing policy briefs? The toolkit offers a checklist to help you decide which of these approaches will best fit your campaign.

From the start, you will also need to be thinking about how you will measure your success. Establishing advocacy objectives and indicators will allow you to monitor and evaluate any significant change you have achieved through your advocacy outreach and adjust messages as needed.

As you begin using these tools, we look forward to hearing from you on the results so we can share with the network and others can learn from your efforts. And we will continue to refine the tools to ensure maximum impact.

We encourage you to find opportunities to continue the discussion and evaluate the importance of a strong social service workforce. Conferences, UN days dedicated to specific topics, worker appreciation days and World Social Work Day are just a few of the many annual events that can be a springboard for local advocacy. Advocacy is needed all year, not just during the five days of Social Service Workforce Week. The Global Advocacy Toolkit will provide you with the tools and steps to add your voice in advocating for the workforce.