Advocate or Activist

good2greatI seem to find myself involved in more discussions lately regarding advocacy and activism. Admittedly both are terms that are often used interchangeably, and while they often overlap, they also have different meanings. It’s important to remember the distinctions especially if you or your organization plan to participate in either activity.

An activist is a person who makes an intentional action to bring about social or political change.
An advocate is one who speaks on behalf of another person or group.

Activism can be described as intentional action to bring about social and political change, economic justice, or environmental well being. This action is in support of, or opposition to, one side of a controversial argument.

An advocate can also be involved in controversial activities or issues, but because they are speaking on behalf of a group, they tend to be more likely to follow the paths of lobbying and legislation. They are also often part of a bigger group, such as celebrity speaking on behalf of the UN, Green Peace or other global organizations.

I recently wrote about the need for more activism in media to be more aggressive and vocal about crimes against humanity and discrimination of all types. Media readily promote or give time to the top diseases in the world but not as much time about sex trafficking, rape, domestic abuse, female circumcision in third world countries, civil rights for the LGBT community, poverty, homelessness, a more sustainable planet and a growing list of issues, attractive and not so attractive with the exception perhaps being the headline of the day.

Knowing that ratings drive programming perhaps that says as much about us and our desire to escape what’s really going on in the world and what we choose to watch or listen to?

The more publicity given the atrocities occurring globally and in our communities the more anger I feel and the more compelled I am to take action professionally and personally.

The more people I speak with the more I find others wanting to get engaged in some form of “legacy work” and to give back. Thus, a lot of introspection and more questions regarding what our individual roles should be and the degree of advocacy required to make a meaningful difference. I am not for a moment diminishing the importance of curing the diseases looking for a cure or any particular activity as all causes that make this a better world are worthy of support!

I know that I can become emotional charged quickly, and my partner has been careful to point out that activism that comes from anger or aggression simply attracts more of the same. I will admittedly have to work on this – however it does speak to how we move from anger and emotionally charged events to a higher place that can actually facilitate change. So, I have been introduced to Andrew Harvey recently and the principals of “Sacred Activism”.

I like the balance this provides me and thought it worth sharing as I work at being kinder and gentler, and as we move forward with a list of activities that are “heartfelt” and that we want to engage in. Consider this…

“A spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom, and compassion will only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When, however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, and social institutions, a holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born. This force I define as Sacred Activism.” ~ Andrew Harvey

There is a common theme among NGO’s and Not for Profits as they are often organized by individuals propelled by a wound around a particular issue and who understand the principals of “sacred activism”. It gives them a sense of purpose and meaning to create a structure to hopefully instigate change.

This said, there are often many gaps in their business acumen and knowledge of leadership and infrastructure that many of them do not succeed. I don’t believe that this means that they should operate more like business as there are many poorly run businesses however it does suggest that all organizations require a common purpose, heartfelt connection to their work and most importantly greater disciplines in all aspects of their enterprise. Jim Collins points out in his Monograph that accompanies “Good to Great” in the social sectors that ‘a culture of discipline is not a principal of business: it is a principle of greatness.”

Hopefully you are involved or perhaps considering getting involved with something that stirs you to action and a desire to “give”. Activism of all types truly makes a difference and we all have a piece of the solution to make this a better world!