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Carol J. Williams, Associate Editor

Carol J. Williams,
Associate Editor

Teaching and Practicing Electronic Advocacy


Like all other aspects of generalist practice, Electronic Advocacy should follow the steps in the problem solving process:

- Problem Definition
- Goal Setting
- Development of a Broad Action Plan or Strategy
- Selection of Tactics
- Implementation of the Action Plan
- Assessment of Outcomes

Social Problem Definition

Before advocacy can begin, it is important to define and gather factual data on the social problem that is to be its focus. Internet research is a key technique that can be used to study a social problem at the international, national, regional, state, or local level. General Internet searching using a search engine is the most common method of obtaining data on an area of interest. Searching Federal, State, and Local Government Websites is a second method of gathering information on a social problem. Federal government documents can be located through:


State and local government documents can be found through state or local government web sites.

Goal Setting

In electronic advocacy, just as in face-to-face community organizing, goals and objectives should set by the community. This can be accomplished by establishing a community of interests online, also known as a "virtual community". A "virtual community" can be most easily formed through a web site (to recruit members) and listserv (to allow community discussion and decision-making).

Development of an Action Plan

According to Hick and McNutt, there are many levels of electronic advocacy:

- Community Networking - locality based consensus based systems to serve local communities
- Electronic Democracy or E-Government - consensus based electronic town halls
- Electronic Government Relations - legislative advocacy
- Virtual Communities - communities that exist only online
- Online Social Action Organizing - to change distribution of power
- Civil Disobedience - "hactivism" - interfering with the operation of opponents technology (Hick and McNutt, http://www.socialpolicy.ca/hr/hick1.htm, 2002)


Possible Tactics to Gather Data or to Achieve Concensus

Possible Tactics to Gather Data or to Achieve Consensus within a Constituency are: online surveys, chat sessions, and videoconferencing. To reach and influence decision makers, one might use email campaigns or online petitions. Online fund raising efforts might be implemented to obtain resources for advocacy campaigns. The current use of "Clicks for charity" sites are an example of this.

Implementation of the Action Plan

The broad action plan can then be implemented, using Electronic Advocacy tactics. Assessment should occur on an ongoing basis to determine whether the broad action plan and its specific tactics are effective.

Evaluation of Outcomes

Evaluation of outcomes should be completed at the end of the advocacy effort to determine whether the intended outcomes were achieved and whether there were any second order consequences. If intended outcomes have not been achieved, we can consider whether changes should be made in our problem definition, goals, objectives, action plan, and tactics.

Continued on the next page...

Spiral, Horizontal Line Spinning

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

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