Advocacy & Leadership
The Advocacy Fellows Program
Nurturing and Linking Together Citizen Advocates
ISC strengthens sustainable communities by giving citizens and community leaders the tools, skills, and support they need to make their voices heard, shape the public dialogue and agenda, and hold public and private institutions accountable. We do this through the Advocacy Fellows Program, our signature capacity building program for citizen advocates. Over 800 alumni in all 50 U.S. states and 52 countries around the world have used the program as a springboard for community action, policymaking, coalition building, and networking across ethnic, geographic, and political borders.
The Advocacy Fellows Program is designed to give citizens a deeper understanding of the role of advocacy leadership in setting an agenda for change, while also helping them think strategically about building and maintaining collaborative relationships to achieve their goals. We customize each one to target the advocacy skills and issue-specific knowledge most relevant to participants' issue area, country context, and personal and professional backgrounds. The result is a strategic mix of classroom work, site visits, and reflection sessions designed to 1) deepen participants' understanding of advocacy practice as a tool for constructive change and 2) build their technical and policy skills to make them more confident and credible partners to public and private sector decision makers. Whether their goals are at the organizational, local or national level, advocates examine a wide range of advocacy tools and their applications, bringing theory and practice together to apply both established standards and innovative new approaches toward the real life challenges they face.
The intensive one- to three-week experience employs a participatory training methodology that builds on participants' own experiences and challenges them to reflect on their work as a team. In addition to core advocacy techniques, the curriculum includes specialized topics such as budget advocacy and monitoring, working in coalition and building multi-sector partnerships, and applications of new media and technology. ISC's faculty of trainers includes skilled facilitators, experienced practitioners, and experts in relevant policy areas. At the conclusion of the Fellows program, participants have acquired a sophisticated understanding of how to design complex advocacy campaigns—and they also leave a much stronger cohort, ready to collaborate at a whole new level.
In parallel with the Fellows Program, ISC works to promote a culture of citizen advocacy at the grassroots through our innovative Mobile Advocacy Schools and Summer Advocacy Institutes designed to expose community leaders and organizations in remote or under resourced communities to core concepts of our cutting-edge curriculum. Likewise, our Community Leadership curriculum, which explores the role of leadership in setting and achieving an agenda for change, focuses on drawing out the skills and building the confidence of unlikely or emerging leaders. In all of our programs, we emphasize close collaboration with local trainers and organizations to leave behind the training capacity and skills needed to carry on the work long after our direct involvement ends.
The Advocacy Fellows Program was originally developed by the Advocacy Institute, a ground breaking institution in the field of social justice advocacy. Founded in 1985 by former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Michael Pertschuk and former Common Cause President David Cohen, the Advocacy Institute (AI) helped social justice leaders in the U.S. and abroad work more effectively for change through support in building advocacy skills, networking with other activists, and one-on-one coaching. Over its twenty-year history, AI worked with leaders from more than 2,500 nonprofits and NGOs in 52 countries, including South Africa, Palestine, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union. AI was a powerful force in building and sustaining the tobacco control movement within the United States and abroad. Domestically, AI also stewarded the Ford Foundation's flagship Leadership for a Changing World awards program.
After years of close collaboration between ISC and AI to address the advocacy capacity building needs of our grantees, the 2006 merger of the two organizations brought an unparalleled wealth of advocacy tools, approaches and resources—grounded in practical experience—together under ISC's roof. Today, ISC continues to build on AI's legacy to provide a robust suite of advocacy capacity building services to our partners and counterparts in the field.
For more information about the Advocacy Fellows Program and to discuss customizing it to meet your program goals, please contact Gretchen Elias, Senior Program Officer, at 802 229 2905 or email@example.com
Before the Advocacy Fellows program, we focused just on our constituents, the Roma people. Now, we also work with the local government and law enforcement as partners to achieve changes.
Director of Mesecina, a Roma-led nonprofit in Gostivar, Macedonia
I consider it to be an honor that I was a member of the first [Ukrainian] group to go to [the Advocacy Fellows Program] in 1999…It was a transformational moment in my life. Something all-encompassing, a goal-oriented activity, [advocacy] became my life-work...Seven years have gone by since my trip to D.C., and I still use certain aspects of advocacy in my work. I've been involved in over 10 successful advocacy campaigns. Currently I use my skills in my work at the parliament... we hold public discussion on draft laws, gather support for it, listen and let business associations express their views on a draft law's implications if enacted, etc...
Deputy of the Ukrainian Parliament and advisor to the President(at the time of this interview in 2006)
The curriculum, the way it was designed to meet all our expectations and needs, tailor made for our different levels of experience and knowledge, was excellent and very useful.
Project Manager, Macedonia Institute for Media