BPD Update Online, Winter 2004
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Carol J. Williams, Associate Editor

Carol J. Williams,
Associate Editor

Teaching and Practicing Electronic Advocacy

The advent of the Internet has changed many aspects of life in our society. Today, BSW social work educators can teach, learn, do research, and network over the internet. Not surprisingly, the key social work role of the “advocate” has found its way onto the internet. In electronic advocacy, the internet is used for research, constituency building, fund raising, outreach, and lobbying. (Social Design Notes, http://www.backspace.com/notes/2003/06/02/x.html, 6/2/2003)


According to Hick and McNutt (2002), "Electronic advocacy refers to use of high technology to influence the decision making process or that uses technology in an effort to support policy-change efforts". (http://www.socialpolicy.ca/hr/hick1.htm, 2002)


If electronic advocacy is the wave of the future in influencing policy and social change, then social work educators should learn the tools and techniques required. We should also be teaching these tools and techniques to our students. This is an important way in which social workers can help to advance social and economic justice. There are hundreds of thousands of web sites devoted to social movements. Most of them include information on a group's history, mission, membership, projects, and links to other organizations. Such web sites provide an opportunity for representation for oppressed groups that may be denied access to other media. An example is http://www.rawa.org, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan. (Social Design Notes, http://www.backspace.com/notes/2003/06/02/x.html, 6/2/2003)



The Internet allows social work educators, practitioners, and students to engage in social and economic justice efforts at the international, national, regional, and local levels without incurring the time and costs involved in travel.


A classroom assignment might be:

1. Select a social problem of interest to you

2. Visit an advocacy web site related to this social problem at each of the following levels:
- International
- National
- Regional
- State
- Local (County or Municipal)

3. For each web site visited, record data on the following form:
- Level of Organization (International, national, regional, state, or local)
- Mission of Organization:
- Membership Of Organization:
- Current Efforts of Organization:
- Internet tools used (e.g., email, listservs, online petitions):
- Objectives Achieved:
- Assessment of the Web Site's Effectiveness:

An alternative assignment would be:

1. Select a social problem of interest to you.

2. Search the web to find online advocacy organizations attempting to address this social problem.

3. Select one such organization, and participate in at least one of its online advocacy efforts.

4. This might include:
- Participating in an email campaign
- Signing an online petition
- Other involvement in electronic advocacy

5. Follow up on the campaign in which you have participate

6. Prepare a five minute oral presentation on the campaign and its outcomes.

7. In your report, assess the effectiveness of this organizing effort, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of online advocacy with in-person or "snail mail" advocacy efforts.

Continued on the next page...

Spiral, Horizontal Line Spinning

BPD Update Online, Volume 26, No. 1, Winter 2004

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