Ann Brandau on the Importance of Advocating for Things You Are Passionate About; How Your Voice Can Make a Difference
Advocating for important causes you care deeply about can change the world for the better and instill your life with a sense of purpose and satisfaction that is hard to come by through any other means.
Ann Brandau, who has worked across the government, nonprofit, and public health sectors in her zeal to help others, says being an advocate can be daunting, and many don’t know where to begin. She claims it often means challenging the status quo, which can bring you into direct conflict with influential and powerful individuals who may have a vested interest in maintaining the current order.
It’s also easy to underestimate the power of your voice in a world of more than 7 billion people, which can discourage many from launching or supporting causes they are passionate about or standing up for what they believe.
As Ann Brandau points out, that mentality doesn’t take into account how quickly advocacy campaigns can swell. One voice can quickly become two voices, and expand exponentially from there to ten voices, two hundred voices, five thousand voices, and beyond.
The internet, and social media in particular, have given untold power to advocates, allowing them to share and spread messages far and wide within minutes, raising awareness and putting pressure on the relevant people, groups, or authorities to confront their practices and consider ways to do better.
“Slacktivism” Isn’t a Replacement for Real Advocacy
That said, Ann Brandau emphasizes that a simple change.org petition is unlikely to generate real results, especially on major issues. While the platform has touted a few notable victories over the years (and claimed a few dubious ones that likely had little to do with their accompanying petitions), the overwhelming majority of petitions go nowhere.
Advocacy is rarely as easy as collecting some online signatures and demanding there will be honored. Rather, it frequently involves lengthy, drawn out battles between two entrenched sides. Instead of monumental victories in short order, advocates often fight tooth and nail for months or even years, sometimes just to receive smaller concessions than what they sought.
They must use every means at their disposal to raise awareness about their cause and exert pressure, including through online campaigns, the media, government agencies, protests, the court system, and even by going after allies or business associates of their target.
Given that, successful advocacy requires fearless and determined people who are passionate about a cause to form groups and keep relentless pressure on their targets. It’s through that commitment to make a real sacrifice for their cause that they can feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility and purpose that motivates them to continue their mission.
Things like research and data analytics are critical to determine that there is support for the cause you are fighting for. A critical piece of Ann’s success in nonprofit community development is because she focuses on surveying and connecting with the people in a particular community. Engaging people about what they wanted to see happen in their community is vital. Without the majority of people supporting the community health initiatives, it is hard for a non-profit movement or advocacy group to be successful.
That it requires that much effort to enact change that may feel like it shouldn’t even be up for debate often does nothing but strengthen the resolve of advocates according to Ann Brandau. After all, if it was easy, then they wouldn’t really be necessary. It isn’t easy though, and each one of their voices is that much more important because of that.