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Advocacy Can Be Hard; Here’s How We Succeed

By Jade Nortey, CTIPP Intern and Master of Public Health graduate from Boston University’s School of Public Health

To advocate is to plead for, support, or recommend action for a cause; at least, that's what the general definition tells us.

In reality, advocacy entails much more than what a dictionary definition or complex training tells us. For those of us who have taken on this work, we know it requires passion, heart, and determination.

As we continue to pursue a society where trauma-informed relationships and care are the standards, there will be inevitable pushback. The pushback may take our passion, heart, and determination and turn them into feelings of pessimism and defeat. But advocacy requires persistence through these obstacles.

In an attempt to overcome the parts of advocacy that can make the work seem futile and to acknowledge the experiences of many advocates, here are three key concepts that can be turned towards to reignite the excitement that led us to this work in the first place.

  1. Change starts with relationships

  2. Small steps lead to large leaps

  3. Change takes time

Change Starts with Relationships

As CTIPP promotes healing and trauma-informed care, we know the immense importance of the work being done locally to start the conversation and implementation, one community at a time. We leverage the power of individuals, local coalitions, teams, and working groups dedicated to the movement of healing trauma.

Local advocacy sets the foundation for work on a national level, so it is important to stay persistent and engage as many community members as possible while continuing efforts on a local level to bring awareness to the effects of trauma on each community.

This work will start the wave of change locally, and as more municipalities, counties, and states continue to take on this work, national recognition is inevitable. For groups who are starting, it's good to start small. Small coalitions and working groups have the potential to inspire big change, so keep working toward bringing together whoever is passionate about the work and make these your champions. These small steps will eventually become large leaps.

You don’t have to do this alone. Lean on CTIPP and other groups to help connect you to others in your community who are passionate about becoming advocates.

Small Steps Lead to Large Leaps

All large movements have a starting place, and the same is true for bringing recognition to trauma-informed systems. CTIPP started as a group of 25 individuals from across sectors in 2015, and today CTIPP has over 4,000 advocates across the country.

Starting small is essential to organizing; starting too big takes attention away from intentional agenda- and goal-setting, which are important first steps in the advocacy process. Other important steps in the advocacy process include developing your message and setting the stage for your coalition’s mission.

So, as you work to build a community of like-minded advocates or if you are looking to broaden the impact of your coalition, keep these things in mind and work in small pieces; this way, you will be sure each step is taken with care, and you are more likely to be proud of the wins once you have established this steady foundation.

Change Takes Time

Once you have developed a strong foundation for your advocacy, it is important to remember that the change you are working for will take time. Seasoned advocates are aware that the road to change is a long one. But how often do we come back to this sentiment as a reminder?

It is important to keep this at the forefront of our minds while working towards transforming our communities into trauma-informed environments. Realizing, recognizing, and responding to trauma, and resisting re-traumatization, can be complex for those unfamiliar with the work. If we can get outside participants even to acknowledge the importance of a few of these steps, we have made progress. Our expectations for growth must be reasonable and allow time for intentional learning that will be long-lasting.

Results that come quickly may be fleeting; we want to promote purposeful learning, which will take time and effort. Though this may take longer to pursue, the results will last for generations to come, which is what we want: a society where trauma-informed practices are embedded in our systems and day-to-day lives.

Being able to lean into these concepts will make the work less daunting and much more approachable. Advocating for any cause takes passion and dedication; feeling tired and burnt out is not uncommon. Changing starts with relationships. Small steps lead to big change, take time, and hopefully help you keep hope alive. Even though it may not always feel like it, our work is unmatched and will lead to lasting change and a more trauma-informed society.

Jade Nortey is from Worcester, Massachusetts, and is a graduate of the Master of Public Health program at Boston University’s School of Public Health; her focus area is Health Policy & Law. She hopes to pursue a career working in health policy analysis at the local or federal level. Jade is currently interning with the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice.


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