What is an advocacy group?

Do you see things in our society that you would like to change? Do wonder how you can make change happen? Try joining an advocacy group!

What is an advocacy group?

An advocacy group supports a political or social cause. They may recommend certain changes in government, public policy, society, and/or law. An advocacy group comes together around a common issue, like greater rights for immigrants and refugees, the environment, education, health care, or women’s rights.

What do advocacy groups do?

Advocacy groups create change by influencing government or society to act. Advocacy groups may use the following methods to do this:

  • Public education like information pamphlets or websites, workshops, and seminars;
  • Lobbying, which means to try and influence government. Groups can lobby through letter-writing campaigns, direct talks with decision makers and politicians and petitions;
  • Media activity including news conferences, interviews, and publishing articles;
  • Coalition building that happens when many groups or organizations come together for a common cause;
  • ‘Grassroots’ activities where a large number of community members can participate in, such as protests, rallies, and demonstrations.

What are some examples of advocacy groups in Ontario?

  • Colour of Poverty - The Colour of Poverty is an Ontario community based effort to help raise public awareness about poverty within racialized communities.
  • Ontario Coalition Against Poverty -  a direct-action based anti-poverty organization based in Toronto but that work on issues that affect people across the province.
  • Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) – CCR is committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. They have a very active youth group.
  • Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) - is a national charitable organization that works toward ensuring the law guarantees substantive equality for all women in Canada.
  • Encampment Support Network - an ad-hoc, volunteer-run network supporting people living in encampments in 6 locations throughout Toronto.

How can I get involved?

You can volunteer at an advocacy group. Advocacy groups are usually looking for volunteers like you. Volunteering is a great way for you to:

  • Meet people and make friends
  • Learn more about an issue
  • Learn new skills
  • Find out about job opportunities

Too scared to volunteer? Most advocacy groups have youth groups, or organize around youth issues, so you’ll be around people your own age. Youth groups can never have too many volunteers or members. A few examples:

If there is a group you are interested in, contact them directly through phone or email. You can search for groups by topic on 211Ontario and at TakingItGlobal.Org

You can also work at an advocacy organization. Volunteering with a group can be a great way to learn about job opportunities. Another great way to hear about jobs is CharityVillage, which focuses on jobs in non-profit organizations.