In these modules, we have said again and again (and will continue to say) that the best sources of information on any topic and those you should look to for guidance on how to best be an effective advocate are those with lived experience.

While we try to live with empathy and understanding for others, the reality of life is that we will never know what it is like to live someone else’s experience. We all have aspects of our life that even those closest to us do not see or might not understand the impact of. When working towards large-scale change on something like equal rights for all, there are a million different approaches that can be taken and tasks to do along the way. Listening to the voices closest to that issue will not only help you understand the cause more fully, but will also help to point you in the direction of where you can do the most good.

If you’re living in a community that is fairly sheltered or far removed from the topic that you wish to be an advocate for, it can be difficult to directly interact with those with lived experience right from the beginning of your advocacy journey. This is where voices online can be extremely useful. 

Here is an example of one such voice. Devon Napone is a father of three and is completing his Indigenous Social Work degree at First Nations University. He is also on the board of STR8 UP, an organization that helped him after being raised on the streets of Saskatoon. 

We encourage you to step outside of your own circle of family and friends, and outside of your comfort zone, as much as possible to meet people in your own area with lived experience and those who have an established record of working for change. 

Just keep in mind that it is no one’s responsibility to tell you their story or to provide you with learning opportunities. If you would like to speak directly with anyone, you need to build that relationship from the ground up. Other ways of hearing and learning from people’s stories is by attending events in your area. This might include talkbacks, book launches and readings or town halls. More and more of these events are also happening online, meaning you’re not restricted to just what’s available in your own region.

If you have a friend or family member who is already working as an advocate and ally for that cause, ask them for suggestions of events or make a plan to attend events together. Volunteering can also be a great way of meeting new people within the community if you are not great at networking. 

Take a few minutes to see what events are happening in your area or being promoted online by local organizations. Look at the social media accounts of established advocates to see if they are doing talks or events. Visit your local community centres and search on event websites like MeetUp and Eventbrite. 

Continue on to the next article in this series, Staying the Course & Advocate Burnout.

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