To begin an advocacy effort, either as an individual or as a team, you must first engage in a planning process of brainstorming, researching, and refining ideas, as well as projecting timelines and budgets. During this phase, all possibilities should be considered before focusing on the specifics of the advocacy efforts. With the plan well-articulated, you can then identify or develop the best process and tools for implementing the advocacy plan.
The “Best of Show” student artwork in each region of Tennessee is annually depicted on a billboard in downtown Knoxville, Nashville, and Humboldt. This advocacy program has been in existence for well over a decade, and each billboard always starts with the title: “Support the Arts in our Schools.”
The advocacy planning process involves nine essential steps. The first four are preliminary and will be discussed in this article. These steps are:
identifying the issues that are the target of the advocacy effort;
examining the identified issues;
developing a well-articulated justification for why change or support is needed; and
identifying the target audience who can most likely help achieve the desired outcome.
Identify the Issue
It is important to precisely identify the issues that are the target of your advocacy effort. It is best to have a single issue for each advocacy effort; however, there may be times when there are related issues that can be addressed simultaneously. The key is to keep the effort focused. Don’t try to take on the whole world at once with too many issues and audiences.
Before engaging in an advocacy or political action effort, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the issues with which you will be dealing. Research each issue. Brainstorm with colleagues to make sure that your identification of the issue is as focused as possible. Write or articulate a clear statement of the issue, and get feedback from someone who may not be as familiar with the topic as you.
Examine the Issue
To be familiar with all points of view related to the issues requires that you do a thorough analysis of each issue. In doing research, be sure that you examine all sides. In addition to your position, consider what those who may oppose your effort may think.
Make sure you know all of the positives as well as all of the negatives related to the issue, and get the facts that support all perspectives. If possible, use citations from published literature to support your position. If you can address the issue clearly from all perspectives, you’ll be able to support your position, as well as be prepared to refute any positions that may be presented by those you are trying to convince.
Once you have a clear statement on an issue, work on a well-articulated justification. Build a case for why support or change is needed in the identified area, delineating why you think this issue is worthy of a major advocacy effort or political action. Building a case for why change or support is needed in the identified area is important and necessary for a successful advocacy effort.
Identify the Audience
It is important to identify the audience that can most likely help achieve the desired change. Possible audiences might include boards of organizations and institutions, state and national officials, the corporate and business community, the press, and volunteers. Once the target audience is identified, the advocate can focus on the best plans and strategies for that audience. Read more about identifying your audience in my article in the September 2021 issue of SchoolArts.
After preliminary planning is done, it’s time to do some action planning. This will be the focus of the next article.
Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series of four that will detail how one can be an effective advocate for art education. Read the first article.
D. Jack Davis is professor emeritus and founding dean of the College of Visual Arts & Design, University of North Texas. D.Jack.Davis@UNT.edu
Art teachers introduce the concept of structure with 3D art, assemblages, and architecture. Young students use empty boxes to build an in-class art museum, elementary students embrace design-level thinking while using found objects to create personalized theme parks, middle-school students use printmaking and mathematical concepts to create 3D hanging sculptures, high-school students demonstrate three types of framing in surreal photographs inspired by Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and more.