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Achieving social development in the Global South? Research Paper


Everyday arguments are emerging on the status of the present activism. Debates on whether activists display of opinions, street rallies, sit-ins and blockades are things of the past have emerged. Thus, we seek to highlight whether new forms of advocacy can still be effective in achieving social developments in modern society.

Scholars in the field of social movements have realised that a lot of changes are conspicuous in today’s advocacy causes, strategies and tactics. Social and economic movements have referred to advocacy as an “active support of an idea or cause expressed through strategies and methods that influence the opinion and decision of people and organisations” (Moyer, 1990).

The key reason of advocacy is to design or change policies, regulations, and laws that influence people daily activities and ensure fulfilment of people’s decisions. Advocacy targets policymakers who include: public servant, politicians, as well as government officials. Other bodies that impact on people’s lives and whose opinions and actions influence the policymakers are also keys in advocacy.

They include the private sector leaders, journalist media, social development agencies, trade unions, faith based and peace groups and enormous nongovernmental organisations such as Jubilee 2000, and Via Campesina.

A number of social movement organisations of today such as Via Campesina have their origin from advocacy. They have grown from the desire of wanting to recognise basic rights like the need for education, medical care, food, as well as just treatment among some groups of people like the disabled and the prisoners.

However, some phases of advocacies have not undergone transition i.e. advocacy on core values and some principles of independent advocacy. They entail self awareness, respect, equality, openness and stereotyping. On the other hand, other advocacy principles have gone through changes due to progresses in the community. These areas include to equal opportunities, business planning, evaluation procedures, equality and diversity strategies.

In the Global South, the rise of social and resistance movements is not a new notion. These movements grow daily in numbers, in Africa, Central and South America, Caribbean, Europe, South East Asia, and South Asia. The movements target activism, advocacy and grassroots, capacity building for advocacy among the locals for the aim of creating critical analysis, and emphasising detailed discussions on national and global policies.

Their task targets to lessen effects of globalisation, neoliberalism, and militarisation. Participants of this movement are mainly environmentalist, small-scale farmers and producers, peasants, rural women, youths, and casual labourers in the agricultural sector. Social and resistance movements always bear clear goals and objectives.

Such goals and objectives include advocating for food sovereignty, solidarity among peasants, breaking structures of political and economic institutions that inflict stress to the weak in society, coming up with structures and institutions for liberating, promoting peace and demilitarisation, reducing conflicts, and advocating for solidarity among farmer organisation.

Examples of resistance social movements in the Global South are Via Campesina; mainly concern with matters of agriculture commonly referred to as Family Farmers International, Focus on the Global South, People’s Global Action; movement constituting youths, Jubilee 2000; created for relieving debts, Friends of the Earth; movement for environmentalist.

Theoretical approaches on social and resistance movements

Rational choice theory

This theory focuses on comprehending social and economic behaviour among individuals. It states that both material and none material incentives drive people to engage in mass actions. Individuals believe in the increased rewards that accompany mass action and penalise those refraining from taking part in collective actions due to lack of personal benefits. Here, free-riders would like to take advantage of the mass but do not take part in the mass action (Olson, 1965).

In movements and advocacy organisations that are active in the Global South, millions participate with clear missions and objectives in mind. They are aware of the incentives that come with participating in these movements such as justice promotion, change and protection of their livelihoods, cultures, values, as well as community interests.

Members of the Via Campesina organisation, a prominent movement in the Global South comprising of indigenous communities, rural women, small scale famers, and agricultural workers enjoy the movement’s advocacy. They enjoy the right of producing food in their own territory, protection of farmers’ seeds, campaigns of ending brutality against women, as well as worldwide campaign for agrarian improvement.

The concept of freeriding does not directly pinpoint an individual’s mental functioning. It focuses on the different manifestations of motivation. Freeriding concept creates a logical, reasonable, and normal person to give in to other people’s action for social advantage of both self and other parties. These clearly show people’s perception on self-satisfaction to the well-being or utility of others; thus, peolpe support such movements in order to maximise self gains first and then for society as a whole.

Resource mobilisation theory

Theorists such as McCarthy and Zald developed resource mobilisation theory in order to explain mobilisation of individuals to help achieve the goals of a movement (McCarthy and Zald, 1977). They noted that freeriding offered opportunities for people to participate in social movement as a result of motivation, cost and benefit, as well as career benefits (Gamson, 1990). Consequently, people participate in social movement for personal resource gains than collective goals.

Marwell, and Oliver, 1992 state that resources are the catalyst for mobilisation than social protests (Marwell and Oliver, 1992). These resources include money, offices, communication equipment, volunteer time, media attention, and alliances with those in power. This theory presents participants as reasonable and only act if benefit outweighs costs (Gamson, 1990).

In Latin America countries for instance, the social movements mobilise people against free trade, protection of natural resources privatisation and militarisation. Other movements e.g. those based in Middle East are against wars and demand for termination of privatisation of energy resources, and removal of foreign troops from Iraq. Majorities of these movements active in the global south call for human rights, end of violence, and torture.

They are also against all forms of racism, homophobic violence, and tirelessly put on permanent fight for feminist struggle for equality. In pursuit of resource mobilisation, these social movements have successfully managed to protect the small farmers and peasant through rejecting the sale of seeds to large-scale farmers as well as opposing the use of seeds created with terminator technology. They also advocate tirelessly for the public right to education financed through the state.

Social movements

Habermas observes that social movements depend on socially unaccepted and radical movement methods in enhancing self-reliance and self-determination. Still, they have varieties of unrecognised networks (Habermas, 1990). In other words, they lack centralisation (Rutch, 1998; Melucci, 1996). Social movements rise due to the need of realising changes, promote consciousness among members of society, reinforce identity, and change social relationship in society.

Social movements exist as part of community structures, as procedures, practices and strategies to transform community relations and behaviour patterns in order to enhance growth, resources allocation, redistribution, and control of social power and community statuses and resources. Thus, social movements exist as a collective bargaining tool that strives at enhancing a noble cause or creating a social change in society.

Researchers who have dwelt on New Social Movements concur that social movement originates out of the desire to challenge and provide alternative to inactive labour movements (Rutch, 1998; Melucci, 1996, Habermas, 1990).

Social movement concerns itself with emerging challenges in society, such as protests about consequences of capitalism, environmental degradation, social injustices and advocacy for the rights of women and children. Many authors believe that social movements change materialism and shift between left and right (Rutch, 1998; Melucci, 1996, Habermas, 1990). This is the notion of value shift hypothesis.

The current views of value shift hypothesis concentrate on modern models of society such as the post-development society, information age society, and advanced capitalism among others. Elements of social changes such as social, economical, and political, are what theorists use in explaining the concept of value shift hypothesis. These factors change society over a period of time (Inglehart, 1990).

The approach of social movement theories from Marxist point of view reveals that social actions emanated from economic changes of the capitalist exploitation and class reductionism. This implies that creation of class system has it origin in the process of production that views most participants as a part of social movements and economic protests.

These are marginalised workers with a collective action but not a part of revolutions. There is a paradigm shift to emerging trends whereby the new social movements highlight new political, ideological, cultural, identity developments as a basis of collective actions.

Strategies in advocacy

We can refer to strategies in advocacy as long-term, multi-featured approach that mainly cover different and diverse tactics that advocates or activists consider suitable in a context for achieving a given resource, objectives, social and economic transformation. Moyer notes that several activists prefer focusing mainly on tactics that may not help them achieve their goals (Moyer, 1990). He further argues that tactics methods apply the use of normal media system.

These activists do this hoping the media channels will air their concerns to relevant authorities. Consequently, preferred solutions and actions or policy changes occur. However, these approaches have proved ineffective in fighting for social changes. As a result of this, many strategies have emerged to support social movements and advocacy. The traditional models and strategies of advocacy came in two forms. These included self advocacy and one to one advocacy. They were all equal in value and served specific needs (Moyer et al, 2001).

Advocacy is a change process that promotes interests of clients, cases, or a community, or a cause or ideal that involves directed, purposive, and intentional change. Advocacy change strategies can vary widely, from direct social action and political action through education and consciousness raising.

Hardcastle notes that advocacy and social action are strategies for achieving a given goal (Hardcastle, 2011). Progressive professionals such as Via Campesina, the Focus on Global South, Centre for Third World Organisation, Jubilee 2000, and other concerned citizens use social movement strategies in order to change the status quo.

Advocacy can be micro, such as self and individual, client and case, and group advocacy, or macro, concerned with institutional and social cause advocacy. Cause or class advocacy is a form of social action and may be a part of a social movement. These concepts (cause or class advocacy) are the same.

There are varieties of techniques used by social workers engaged in advocacy and social reform. In addition, the new communication and information technologies greatly expand the audience for and participants engaged in advocacy. The main difference is that case or individual advocacy, while often leading to larger social action, have individual approach rather than intentionally seeking larger social change.

The old approaches in advocacy included group collective advocacy, issue-based advocacy and self advocacy. There are also certain forms of advocacy, such as peer advocacy in which all participants share same values and experiences, citizen advocacy whereby members struggle for the rights and privileges of the marginalised people.

We also have non-instructed advocacy in which people are free to express their opinions. However, some forms of advocacy have also come up. These may include advocacy through legal experts, religious bodies, workers unions, self-help group, and virtual advocacy among others. These groups are not radical in their approaches and have not fully embraced the title of advocacy.

Group advocacy as a strategy in advocacy may originate from other approaches such as case advocacy. Group advocacy is mainly part of a large fight, or a proceeding a social or community movement. Group advocacy is useful in aiding the community acquire awareness and knowledge and skills for self and community struggles for social justice.

It is necessary to note that a group advocacy may start with an individual and gradually grows to include other members of the society. For example, Via Campesina advocates for the Global South farmers as individuals. However, it ends up fighting for land rights of the entire community as is the case today where land-grabbing advocacy covers several countries of the Global South such Congo, Brazil, Italy, Indonesia, and Mozambique among others.

Occasionally, advocates operate on behalf of scattered individuals who have never met. This is the macro advocacy modalities. In either case, the advocate must get to know each individual, and members of the group, articulate the group situations as the process proceeds, and must be accountable to them. In these cases, most members cannot easily air their grievances. Thus, the advocate has to work through ethical and authority issues.

Advocates who represent groups with inarticulate and passive members must consider all the various sub-interests within the group. Otherwise, only members who are present and articulate their issues will succeed. When members of the Global South want to fight discrimination, land rights or economic hardship, the practitioner-advocate must fully inform the group of any potential risks, and then encourage the group’s self-determination and follow its lead. This is the best method to advocacy where masses participate.

Community advocacy can take many forms and bridge the gap that exists between the micro and macro advocacy approaches. Community advocacy strategy needs community consciousness awareness and public education regarding methods of challenging unfavourable conditions. Most community advocacies occur as a result of demoralising conditions, conditions that cause marginalisation, anger or harm a section or the entire community.

Firstly, the advocate might organise activities that enhance or sustain the quality and welfare of the community. Emerging towns in the Global South surrounded by farms or ranches can have street festivals or fairs that attempt to promote social inclusion among them. These occasions provide opportunities for enhance their social developments and solve their problems.

Secondly, community advocacy often involves efforts to maintain the status quo for a community resisting the waves of modernity. In some areas, there is advocacy for zoning ordinances, for restrictions on development. For instance, Via Campesina has been resisting the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

It argues that the programme does not “significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, although it does open the door to the privatization of land, and also rewards polluters, and threatens national sovereignty and the survival of indigenous communities” (Angus, 2010).

Thirdly, advocates may demand public access to resources. This is the case in which Via Campesina has noted that peasants are losing their access to land and other natural resources to capitalists. Thus, the organisation is advocating for protection of peasantry. Fourthly, advocates strive to become accountable to the community.

Social movements want to account for inequality such as land rights, gender, and food scarcity that exist in society. Successful social movements result in social inclusion that provides community citizens with justice and dignity. Political leaders and elected city officials and managers can serve as, and often are, community advocates.

Virtual advocacy, or more accurately the use of the Internet to advocate, is a widespread and growing phenomenon among social movement groups. Advocacy groups such as the Focus on Global South, Via Campesina and Jubilee 2000, among others can rally their supporters to e-mail political policymakers and provide the supporters with links to the decision makers’ e-mail boxes.

This strategy has worked well for MoveOn.org for what it labels virtual marches on Washington and Wall Street, as well as massive e-mail campaigns. Virtual advocacy involves the use of blogs for posting any cause, issue, or candidate. Hardcastle notes that people can use blogs for public education, persuasion, social marketing, developing virtual networks and mailing lists, and rallying and communicating with supporters.

Other authors observe that people can widely use blogs in political campaigns to generate money and voter support. When combined with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the other networking sites, virtual advocacy has the potential to be powerful (Hardcastle, 2011). The challenge is to break through the clutter and not become spam or end up at the bottom of the list of sites. This will require a hit strategy and links with a variety of other sites.

Hardcastle points out that virtual advocacy have not been rigorously evaluated (Hardcastle, 2011). Social movement groups and politicians have extensively used virtual advocacy for various purposes. In any case, as with the other components of community practice, it is a crucial skill for advocacy.

Butcher notes that the strategy of internal change in society enhances authority and effectiveness for new social movements (Butcher, 2007). Conversely, trends and elements like bribery and self-interest in social movements may inhibit participation of people in advocacy. Thus, the main purpose of social action is raising awareness of issues to provide opportunities for action systems (Butcher, 2007).

As per Gamson, there are mainly three collective action models that enhance social action (Gamson, 1990). These include injustice, political process and collective action in society.

Advocates use these frames or mode as a basis of justification for their social actions. He further notes that injustice element in society consists of moral unfairness that happens mainly in political situations. He observes that most agencies believe in taking action through a collective social action. Thus, the main reason for advocacy is to counteract unfavourable social changes in society (Hardcastle, 2011).

Studies in collective social action show that social actions vital concern is to hold people who have power accountable (Hardcastle, 2011). The belief is that social movements enhance insurgency, reform movements, and reforms.

They know that modern social actions rely on modern forms of communication such as the Internet and, social media platforms, as well as other methods of campaigning aimed at achieving the desired reforms. This differs with traditional forms of advocacy where limited availability of resources and technology negatively influenced their efforts.

Advocates use social action globally with strategies of demonstrations and protests for various reasons. For instance, in Africa and other parts of the Global South, farmers have demonstrated against land-grabbing using social action for fighting for land rights whereas in developed nations, social movements have condemned unfavourable corporate and political globalisation actions. We can see the use of social actions on the streets, media, and Internet among other channels.

These approaches function best to enhance social changes and incremental reforms necessary in society (Hardcastle, 2011). The social changes aim at redistributing community resources and social power among the masses. This redistribution of resources has promoted developments in post apartheid South Africa particularly in low income areas.

Systems Advocacy and Change

Individual, state, national and regional economic investment and boycotts are effective tools for system change. For example, making socially responsible domestic investments or conducting boycotts can help develop grassroots, community-oriented, and self-help organizations.

System changes approaches through using various means such as mass protests, strikes, and demonstrations proved effective in the Civil Rights struggle of Americans in the 1960s, and war against apartheid in South African and now in most countries of the Global South.

Organisations such as Jubilee 2000, Via Campesina and others have attempted on several occasions change the world at various levels such as communities, national and international levels by transforming various societal systems, such as the economic system, the patriarchal family system, and gender roles.

These attempts indicate that society desires such changes. However, main challenges to the social order take longer than expected. Individual advocates are crucial in social movements for change. Some of the prominent figures who have achieved social changes through advocacy include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela among others. Today, people enjoy the sacrifices such leaders made in the past to enhance social equalities.

Goodwyn captures what is fundamental about social movements and change endeavours to the people who are part of them (Goodwyn, 1978). Goodwyn refers to populism as a source of self-worth and self-education in social movements. These words describe the aims of many of today’s movements and embryo political parties.

Today’s protestors resist the latest version of a giant industrial engine (capitalism and its consequences). Globalisation and extreme poverty have become part of the public debate because of the insistence of advocates for systems change. These are some of the aspects (negative aspects of globalisation) that global social movements have tried to resist.

Large-scale social movements and quests for changes often have scopes of reaching into community advocacy, political advocacy, and systems change. Women’s social movements and quests for equal opportunities in societies are excellent cases of large-scales social movements.

Women have attempted several approaches to achieve equal representation but with minimal results. They then turned back to their communities and outward to larger systems, seeking other types of equality in terms of jobs, education, insurance rates, and even public sanction regarding the sharing of domestic chores.

Most social movements have made fundamental gains in some areas such as respect for human rights, equal opportunities and representation, there are still existing setbacks in communities. These setbacks stem from institutions, and other forms of emerging social trends. The gains made are uneven. However, progress continues. Social movements have resulted into situations whereby we have ethnic minorities, women, and gays in public offices.

Why advocacy may fail

Research works indicate that advocates who mainly use tactics, such as relying on the media to air the grievances and individual approaches rarely get their desired outcomes or goals (Moyer, 2009; Hardcastle, 2011). The main reason why advocacy may fail is the lack of sufficient information.

Thus, it is necessary for advocates to have sufficient information to support a campaign agenda. In addition, advocates must have the necessary advocacy skills and practical knowledge for effective campaign management. Lack of interpersonal relationship skills may also affect the outcome of social movement (Shields, 2009).

Advocacy may also not succeed due opponents’ propaganda, deceptions, and bribes. There are cases where advocates may have vested interest and negatively affect the outcome of a movement. Bribes usually inhibit the ability or desire to acts among the advocates (Freddolino and Moxley, 1994).

The social and labour movements of the 1960s did not create a base of individuals with the wide range of interests, and achieve results beyond the local level. Instead, these movements put their efforts on issues people could easily defend without support. At the same time, majorities of the leaders did not pay attention to main issues their constituents experienced.

Advocacy may also fail due to lack of progressive strategies. This is mainly due to lack of necessary skills in the dynamic field of social issues. Advocates should learn from past experiences and take lessons from previous actions.

Scholars also note that some social movements fail to address ideologies (Freddolino and Moxley, 1994). The inability to focus on necessary issues have affected rendered some social movement organisation irrelevant. These factors undermine initiation of any movement to create a change in society because of disfranchised communities. This means that modern forms of advocacy rely on issues rather than the use of traditional approaches to advocacy.

Effectiveness of organisations advocating for communities

Organisations advocating for communities have played a critical role in bringing changes to the lives of individuals in the Global South as compared to individual advocacy. In the global south, Via Campesina, an international organisation has fought endlessly for the protection of peasant farmers through protecting the native seed and objecting the sale and use of seeds created harmful technology.


This work shows that advocacy trends have undergone significant changes, and new methods of advocacies, such as virtual advocacy, and systems changes among others are evolving. However, action-charged tactics that characterised old advocacies strategies are losing sense of relevant in modern society. Activists are relying on social networks, new knowledge and skills, and modern advocacy strategies to induce social changes. However, traditional forms of advocacies are the foundation of modern advocacy strategies.

Social changes achieved through advocacy takes time with regard to prevailing political, socioeconomic, and cultural consequences of changes in the community. Impacts of such changes determine how advocacy and social movements for change manifest themselves and the subsequent reactions for achieving the preferred changes in society.

Scholars’ review of youth empowerment programmes concluded that uniting youths to work together in social action is an essential component of community building, and addressed skills in development at both the individual and group levels (Hardcastle, 2011). Engaging in community organising and critically examining community issues provide young people with the experience, self-efficacy, and social connections to continue to work for community-based change.

There are also other radical strategies such as structural and system change advocacy. Habermas notes that structural and system changes advocacy are fundamental with regard to terms of ends sought, ideologically driven and revolutionary than others forms of advocacies, which focus on an individual’s rights and interests (Habermas, 1990).

It can be promoted by either the political left or going on to provide for adequate facilities for the entire community. Many systems affect individuals and society in general, and advocacy systems want to be able to influence them. Those who would transform themselves and their environment must be able to construct a vision and convince policymakers on how the community can be.

Transformative structural and systems change results in profound alteration or revitalisation of society. However, these are systematic changes that must take time to have significant consequences on the masses. Societies can change peacefully or violently though with slow steps towards their goals.

We have witnessed how the American civil rights movement transformed American society. We could not imagine a black president in the US or a woman president in Africa in the 1960s. Some forms of these transformations were not imaginable in the 1960s. However, today, they have become reality due to the civil right movements, social changes and advocacy strategies. This demonstrates that strong forms of advocacies are fundamental tools in fighting for the rights of community in order to enhance development.

Manifestations of changes achieved through modern forms of advocacies make members of marginal and invisible groups more central and visible, address social isolation and disenfranchisement, link individuals to social resources, and contribute to their social capital, and promote empowerment, confidence, and optimism.

Reference List

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