Foróige has established an advocacy section which seeks to build on youth participation whereby young people are actively being heard outside of the organisation. Advocacy is about seeking to influence decision makers to bring about a positive change. It can be done at a local level or at a national level. It generally involves the advocate speaking out on behalf of another person or a group on an issue affecting them.
In Foróige, we believe that the best placed people to advocate on behalf of young people are young people themselves.
They have first hand experience of the issues and can therefore truly represent the views of young people .Advocacy generally takes two forms – public campaigning and lobbying. Public campaigning is about raising awareness of an issue amongst the public. It can involve holding public meetings, organising demonstrations/ petitions, running social media campaigns, providing information to the public or holding media events. Lobbying is about engaging with public representatives either at a local or a national level which may involve making submissions and establishing a good relationship with those who have the power to make changes. A good example of advocacy in action is where a group of young people from a rural community who were actively involved in youth participation in Foróige identified lack of transport as a huge concern for young people in their area. As a group, they identified who they could seek to influence to bring about a positive change for their area.
Although this issue affected young people, it also affected the whole community and the young people were in fact representing the voices of their community. They developed a plan of action and began by approaching their county council with the aim of setting up a meeting between the council and the young people to present their issues to them.
Alongside this, they conducted a survey with their community on the impact of the poor transport system in the area and compiled this for the meeting. The County Council took on board all of the concerns of the community and are in the process of evaluating how the transport system in the area could be more effective for the community.
In my role as Advocacy Youth Officer, I provide advocacy training and support to young people, staff and volunteers in Foróige to ensure that young people are enabled to speak out on behalf of young people to bring about a positive change. By empowering young people to advocate, Foróige is enabling them to make a difference to the world around them, which is central to our overall purpose. It is giving young people a sense of responsibility and an awareness of how it is possible to bring about a positive change for young people in society.
Advocacy Youth Officer