Should advocacy work be centrally coordinated or should the communities across the world organize it mainly for themselves? The community feedback to our work clearly uncovers the tension between these two ways of organizing the activities. On one hand it is important, also from the point of self-determination of the communities, that those who experience issues in their environment are empowered to advocate for themselves, since they are usually the most knowledgeable about their circumstances. On the other hand, they cannot do it long-term without any support from the structures that have the resources and expertise. And the movement as a whole benefits from coordination, exchange, mutual learning and cohesion of values and impact! This is why the feedback we get often starts with “WMF should ...”.
This seemingly simple solution of charging WMF (or any well institutionalised structure in the movement) with undertaking advocacy tasks has its disadvantages: as important as it is to enjoy support and legitimacy from established structures, if those structures run and coordinate activities, ultimately they also are burdened with potential liability - and therefore will take decisions on behalf of the movement to offset any risks. And that takes the decisions away from our communities worldwide.
A balance is needed, therefore, to maximise the self-determination and empowerment of those who are and who will/can be a part of our movement and positive effects of centralised/institutionalised support, coordination, and cohesion.
What we propose is a model of sharing authority, tasks and responsibilities between various segments of our movement in a way it will maximise the impact of advocacy and practice of our values: collaboration, sharing, autonomy of knowledge, and
Subsidiary decentralisation is based on the notion that our communities across the world are capable to identify greatest systemic barriers to the sum of human knowledge in their local context, and that they should exercise self-determination in overcoming those barriers. At the same time, local struggles are often a result of global challenges as well as shortages in capacities and access to resources. So the principle of self-determination does not mean communities and their advocates are entirely left to fend for themselves. The subsidiarity principle means that they have the right to access support that is somewhat tailored to their needs and that does not replace their efforts but strengthens them and leaves the community better equipped to advocate for our movement in the future.
This recommendation is based on a number of basic principles that guide the collaboration and at the same time manage expectations.
When we encounter issues anywhere in the world, the opinion and capacity of the local community is crucial in planning adequate intervention. Local capacities need to be assessed and community guidance seeked before steps are taken. Risks: this takes too long in crisis situation. Not everywhere our community is prepared/interested/capable to take action and assess the situation. Risk mitigation: structures such as advocacy hub, and processes such as knowledge management help aggregate knowledge about regional/local circumstances, meet advocates and coordinate work before a crisis happens. Where there is no capacity, the community is informed that when liability is at stake, the institutionalised bodies step in in crisis situations and coordination follows at a pace/level that is accessible to the advocates in situ.
Accessibility of local political structures and dangers/risk involved are a strategic part of the assessment in developing advocacy activities across the world. - legislative change is an important objective in advocacy as providing lasting change or preservation of important user freedoms. The array of advocacy actions may vary, but whenever possible and desirable these initiatives should be supported and advocates helped in getting skilled in that sort of work.
Support is tailor-made and can take various forms depending on context and situation. In some circumstances (sensitivity of a gov’t to international pressure, etc.) it may mean that an institutional body takes over representation and meets officials, releases statements under its official name, etc. It is considered subsidiary as long as it is helping the local community achieve the planned goal and is taken up with their approval and support; or when direct action endangers members of our community. In another context, international bodies offer advice, training, resources, etc. but remain invisible to the outside actors, as the community members take on the representation in full.