About Advocating Creatively

Published and available! https://www.createspace.com/4966737

“Advocating Creatively” is a book project initiated in March 2013 by students at Columbia University’s School of Social Work.

The purpose of this project is to compile a set of personal essays, contributed by contemporary social work pioneers who practice creative methods of advocacy to advance social justice, equality, and peace.

Inspired by Days in the Lives of Social Workers by Linda May Grobman, this book is intended to provide inspiration to individuals interested in creative advocacy and activism, to create a broader sense of community between current practitioners of creative advocacy and activism, and foster greater recognition in the wider professional world of creative advocacy and activism practice.

This book project is, in and of itself, a ‘meta’ example of ‘advocating creatively,’ since the book’s purpose involves advocating to advance knowledge of ‘advocating creatively’ as a concept.

What is “Advocating Creatively?”

“Creative advocacy” may refer to the process of advocating for arts programs, in that those who practice it are advocating for creativity.

However, “creative advocacy” can also apply to those who practice advocating for causes in a creative way, or creative methods of advocacy (and activism).

advocacy_activismCreative methods of advocacy, or “advocating creatively,” can take the form of music-making, poetry or novel writing, screenwriting, acting, film-making, visual art making, and game designing, amongst a myriad of other methods.

For the purpose of this project, to avoid confusion with the other definition of “creative advocacy,” we plan to title our book, “Advocating Creatively: Stories of Contemporary Social Change Pioneers” (working title).

The initial idea of creative advocacy as an idea originated from the experience of Natalie Millman, the originator of this project, who was featured for this creative advocacy project in 2008. As she writes about in the essay that she will contribute to this book, she did not initially begin her efforts as a creative advocacy project. Her project began with a motive of personal fulfillment, but it morphed into a project that aimed to fundraise and advocate for awareness about substandard housing and homelessness. In retrospect, as she began to identify what made her project unique from others, and as a result she decided to take the term ‘creative advocacy’ and expand the definition to include her activities.

Who are these “Social Work Pioneers?”

These pioneers include artists and designers who advocate for social justice causes through their creative output, who are motivated to dedicate a significant amount of their work towards advocating. These pioneers also include BSWs, MSWs, and PhDs in Social Work, as well as practitioners in related fields (case management, counseling, public health, psychology, sociology, communications, medicine, education, etc.) who practice advocating creatively at an individual or organizational level.

Pioneers can be undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty members of schools, professionals, laypeople, and others who are involved in advocating for social justice, equality, nonviolent action, and peace through creative ways.

So how is this a book project?

Each pioneer will be asked to write a personal essay addressing their method of advocating creatively, loosely following a set of criteria, detailed below.

The essays written will then be published in a book, with all proceeds being donated to a charity chosen by the essay contributors.

Each essay will address several key components of creative advocacy, including:

a) a definition of the problem or population for which the pioneer advocates
b) the objective(s) of the advocacy method and the system(s) targeted
c) a history of how the pioneer developed the advocacy method
d) a description of the advocacy method in its current form
e) a description of the pioneer’s hopes for the future of the creative advocacy method
f) how the pioneer evaluates the effectiveness of the advocacy method
g) receptivity of the lay public, professional systems, and others to the advocacy method
h) how the advocacy method fits in to a broader scheme of advocacy
i) how other professionals and laypeople (the readers of the book) can get involved in this advocacy method

These essays will take the form of a personal, first-person narrative. The length of the essay will range from 1500 to 2000 words, but we will accept any submissions up to 5000 words. Incorporating anecdotes and stories is encouraged. The goal is to compile at least 25 essays between April 2013 and September 2013, with a publishing goal of January 2014.

Is my creative advocacy project relevant to this book?

While the purpose of this book is highly specific – to feature the essays of social change pioneers who use creative methods to advocate for causes – there is some flexibility in terms of what ‘counts’ as a ‘creative method to advocate for causes.’

Ultimately, the project must serve as an example of advocacy (demonstrating support or raising awareness for a social cause) and/or activism (vigorously acting to bring about social change).

Whether it began with the intention of serving these purposes does not matter; a project that began as a project for personal fulfillment that evolved into serving the advancement of a cause is acceptable.

Causes that ‘count’ are those that represent an advancement of social work values as defined by the NASW Code of Ethics.

What does not ‘count’ as eligible to participate in this creative advocacy project is: any cause that defies the values of the NASW Code of Ethics. Any advocacy project that works on behalf of a cause with the goal of advancing hate, violence, intolerance, impoverishment, decreased health and/or quality of life, oppression, discrimination, exclusion, or restricted rights for any group (including those related to race, ability, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, sexual affiliation, criminal affiliation, etc.) will not be accepted for this project. For example, projects that advance the causes of organizations like Westboro Baptist Church, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups will not be published.

Other advocacy projects that are not acceptable for this project include those that advance religious causes (causes that attempt to convert individuals to a certain religion, or raise money for a certain religious institution) and purely political causes (causes that directly raise money for specific political candidates, parties, or partisan organizations.)

However, it is acceptable to submit a project that is connected to a church only insofar as the project drew upon the church for volunteers – for example, if a church youth group goes to Mexico to build houses, and uses creative methods to advocate for greater awareness of international  substandard housing and actively raise money for their trip. It is also acceptable for a project that advocates changing attitudes and practices within religious causes (for example, revising attitudes towards women within a religion). It is also acceptable to submit a project that is connected to politics in that it is advocating for a certain piece of legislation to pass or to advocate for increased voter participation, if the organization under which the project is formed is nonpartisan (for example, Habitat for Humanity, Inc.).

Okay, I think I want to participate in this project!

If you are interested in this project, please email us directly at: AdvocatingCreatively

Anything else?

8/26/13: Our preface is being written by a team from Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts!

8/5/13: News about this project has spread around the globe! (See below – as of 8/5/13.)


7/10/13: We have been featured on the page of Jules Rochielle’s Social Practices Art Network! (Below)


7/2013: We have been featured on the Social Justice Artists’ Collective!

7/2013: We have been featured on ArtsActivism!

5/2013: We have been featured on The Social Workers Show with Kathryn Zox! 


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