Public Advocacy and Activism Courses

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What is Public Advocacy and Activism?

Activism is an intentional action with the goal of bringing about change. If you feel strongly about a cause and are working towards a change you could be considered an activist.

The goal of an activist is to always consider the larger picture and find ways to create strong communities that encourage economic, social, environmental and psychological health.

While social services work addresses the needs of individuals, social action looks more at the root causes of those needs and tries to find ways to eliminate them. For example, rather than working directly with the homeless, a social activist might work to uncover the conditions that are making it difficult for people to work and afford a place to live.

Public advocacy is the active support of an idea or cause expressed through strategies and methods that influence decision makers and promote changes to laws and other government policies to advance the mission of a particular organization or group of people.

Advocacy seeks to ensure that all people in society are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them, protect and promote their rights and have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Public Advocacy and Activism courses in the following subject areas:

  • Certificate in Empowerment and Advocacy – The study of the overall concept of empowerment as it applies to people with disabilities.
  • Higher Certificate in Arts in Advocacy Studies – A course for those who work as advocates or would like to develop their skills in this area.
  • Digital Media Practice: Activism and Social Change – Analyse development, democratisation processes and social change alongside gaining creative and technical media production skills.
  • Professional Diploma in Human Rights & Equality – Gain a better understanding of the place that human rights and equality occupy in public management and administration.
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in International Human Rights Law – The study of International Human Rights Law to facilitate enhanced career opportunities and/or to lay the foundations for PhD study.
  • LL.M. in International Human Rights Law – The LL.M. in International Human Rights Law offers students the opportunity to specialize in International Human Rights Law, to facilitate enhanced career opportunities, or to lay the foundations for the PhD study.

Studying Public Advocacy and Activism in college

There are many Public Advocacy and Activism courses that take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could consider work experience or working as an intern in a public defender’s office or an environmental law firm that will give you some experience from professionals in the Public Advocacy and Activism field. Volunteer work and internships within Human Rights organisations such as the United Nations or Amnesty International will also give you valuable experience.

Volunteer or Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Public Advocacy and Activism you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of Human Rights and the law.

There are very few careers that can be specifically defined as “activist” careers. The key to creating a career in activism is to find ways to bring your beliefs and values into your work. Just about any career choice can incorporate an element of activism if you are working towards societal change.

Combining activism with your career choice may require creativity and resourcefulness on your part. For example, you could be a teacher contributing to activism by teaching your students about environmental, human rights and global issues. As a doctor, you could dedicate your career to offering medical services to children in impoverished areas. Or as the director of an employment agency, you might gear your organization’s efforts towards helping homeless people find work.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the financial resources to take on these relatively low-paying types of jobs while they are students. But if you can, or if you can afford to serve as a volunteer with a public interest group, you might think of it as an investment toward a future public interest job.

Related jobs include:

  • Social worker
  • Fundraiser
  • NGO project manager
  • Community organiser
  • Legal professional
  • Victim advocate
  • Researcher
  • Social justice consultant
  • Food program coordinator
  • Healthcare advocate
  • Outreach coordinator
  • Housing advocate
  • Disability advocate
  • Human resources
  • Nurse-midwife

Further study

After completing a course in Public Advocacy and Activism you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as Law and Public Policy, Human Rights, Social Work or Environmental Studies.

FAQ

What skills could be helpful for a career in Public Advocacy and Activism?

There are certain skills that make individuals qualified for a career in social activism. Individuals must be able to work with a diverse array of people, have excellent communication skills and be able to speak persuasively. Strong writing and critical analysis skills are also helpful, in order to strategize and envision an improved society.

What subjects or specialities will be helpful to become an activist?

  • Community Organization and Advocacy
  • Economics
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Urban Studies
  • Women’s Studies

What are some examples of activism?

Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community such as writing letters to newspapers, petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, boycotts of businesses and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins.

Where can I study Public Advocacy and Activism?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • The 1963 March on Washington, which drew 250,000 participants, was the first mass protest of its size in the country, an unprecedented collective action that hadn’t been tried in the United States before.
  • On January 21, 2017, at least 4.2 million people took to the streets in more than 650 coordinated Women’s Marches all around the United States. Signs from the Women’s Marches were collected by numerous museums, such as the National Museum of American History and the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts to preserve as part of their collections.
  • Social activism has changed drastically with the rise of social media. For example, the civil rights movement had mostly peaceful demonstrations and protests and is still one of the most successful social activism campaigns. Nowadays, social media has become a key player in social activism. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have taken over the role of advocacy and are very successful in bringing light to social justice issues by providing accessible information across the world.
  • One can place activists into two categories depending on their relationship to an organization. Insider activists are employees of a targeted organization. They have certain benefits and challenges compared to outsider activists who are members of independent social activism movements. Insider activists are also called whistle-blowers and they expose unethical practices happening within the organization they are a part of.

Mariza Halliday

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