What is the Citizen Advocacy Model?

The Citizen Advocacy Model is a short hand term that captures the essential features of an office using the Principles of Citizen Advocacy (see below) and utilising the guidance offered by The Key Office Activities to make many good matches. The Principles and Key Activities have been designed as a result of many years of practice and refinement of what increases the chances that the matching effort engaged in by the Citizen Advocacy program is likely to be successful.The Citizen Advocacy Trust will only be giving funds to programs committed to striving to learn about and implement the Citizen Advocacy Model.

The reason for this is that in all cases where the Citizen Advocacy Model has been rejected or failed to be implemented correctly, matches become impossible to make or those made, failed in a very short period of time. Such events leave protégés disappointed and further wounded by the passage of people entering and then abandoning them. Citizen advocacy is to be a means of meeting important needs, not creating them.

How the Principles of Citizen Advocacy Inform the Key Activities of the Office

Mitchel Peters
Advancing Citizen Advocacy Conference
February 11-12, 2023

Citizen Advocacy Principles

In order to effectively represent protege needs, advocates must be free to develop a primary loyalty to proteges and to act as independently as possible in meeting protege needs. This means that:

  • advocates should see themselves as supported by, but independent of, the advocacy office itself;
  • advocates should see themselves as independent of the agencies and settings which provide services for proteges; and
  • advocates should be able to see themselves as independent from the families of proteges in those instances where family interests are different from those of individual proteges.

Briefly, the citizen advocacy program should be structured to support citizen advocates as unpaid, independent volunteers to an individual person.

In order to support the development of effective advocacy relationships, advocacy office itself must be independent. Independence implies the greatest possible freedom from conflict of interest in administration structures and funding.

In order to develop the full range of its potential, an advocacy office needs a staff who understand the nature and possibilities of Citizen Advocacy and who communicate this understanding by supporting, not supplanting, advocate/protege relationships; and by directing their energies toward building and maintaining the citizen advocacy program as a whole. Clear and effective staff functions requires the distinction of a well defined staff role from the role of the citizen advocate, non competition with advocacy roles, and staff involvement with others in developing Citizen Advocacy concepts and program.

People with handicaps have a wide variety of needs for representation and relationships which can be met by citizen advocates. One of the greatest potential strengths of Citizen Advocacy, is the flexibility to define and support those relationships which can, if the participants choose, fit the changing individual circumstances of a protege. However, realising this potential requires that the Citizen Advocacy office staff should be capable of developing and implementing complex, multi-path relationships. Many Citizen Advocacy offices have developed in the absence of such a multi-path strategy, and have greatly narrowed both the types of protege need they perceive, the kinds of advocates they recruit, and the kinds of support they offer. This narrowing can easily define the pattern of growth of a Citizen Advocacy office over time such that potential flexibility becomes fixed in one or a few categories of response. Narrowing the range of possible citizen advocacy roles can result either in provision of overly restrictive relationships, or an inability to meet a substantial need for protection.

The advocacy office should be a model in the interpretation of handicapped people. This implies both a systematic, highly conscious orientation to avoiding various types of deviancy-image juxtaposition and actively seeking the most positive possible and yet honest interpretation. This does not mean that the advocacy office will deny the existence of people’s handicaps, or the nature of their social situation.

Key Office Activities

The impact of a Citizen Advocacy office depends on the availability of sufficient staff time to effectively perform a balance of seven key activities. These activities will back up and coordinate volunteer citizen advocates so as to maximise the probability that their proteges will experience continuity over time despite changing needs.


Protege recruitment practices have a strong influence on the direction of the advocacy office’s development. If protege recruitment is confined to a narrow group of people, it will make the development of an adequate range of advocate role options either impossible or reliant on significantly over or under servicing some proteges. If protege recruitment is essentially a passive process which relies on human service agencies for protege referrals, it is possible that many people most in need of Citizen Advocacy will be screened out as ‘unsuitable for a volunteer’ or even as a person for whom service providers are disinterested in active spokesmanship. If protege recruitment does not result in valid information which clearly defines protege needs, preferences and characteristics, advocate recruitment cannot be targeted precisely.

Effectiveness in advocate recruitment results in a growing number of people becoming involved in each of the fifteen possible citizen advocacy roles. Ensuring effectiveness requires a written plan which is updated at least annually, which specifies target groups for recruitment, recruitment objectives, time-lines, and a variety of options for recruitment activities; is coordinated with the protege recruitment plan; and is intended to track performance. Advocate recruitment strategies which rely on direct, person to person efforts which are specific to the defined needs of a particular protege have proved most effective. Second in effectiveness appears to be presentations which are planned to interpret specific protege needs to a target audience selected to ensure a high likelihood of producing people who would accept a particular advocacy role. Generalised public appeals, or generalised presentations to unselected groups, have shown only minimal return compared to more specific tactics.

The orientation required by advocates who are beginning a citizen advocacy relationship provides them with a necessary framework of understanding. Orientation can be productively provided into pre-match and post-match time blocks. In whatever minimum time is allocated to orientation, there should be adequate coverage of at least:

  1. The social situation of handicapped people;
  2. Description of the basic principles of Citizen Advocacy, with special reference to advocate responsibilities to proteges, and to the full range of necessary citizen advocacy roles;
  3. Clear description of the role and function of the Citizen Advocacy office from the perspective of what advocates can and should expect from staff and advocate associates;
  4. Information on a range of effective means of meeting the advocacy needs of handicapped people;
  5. Information on other available resources to assist advocates and proteges; and
  6. Specific information necessary to an initial sense of understanding and competence in undertaking a chosen advocacy role.

Matching involves the selection of an advocate and a protege who are likely to begin a successful relationship, and providing an initial structure for introducing each to the relationship. In terms of advocacy office staff activity, the quality of the match depends on:

  1. The quality of information available on the specific needs, personal characteristics, and preference of individual proteges.
  2. The quality of information available on the advocate initial expectation, the type of advocacy role he/she is interested in, the level of advocate commitment and advocate skills, personal characteristics and preferences. What becomes apparent here is the utility of advocate recruitment methods which are specifically targeted to well defined protege needs.
  3. The ability of the staff performing the match to select advocate/protege pairing s which provide a best fit between advocate expectations and characteristics, and protege needs and characteristics.
  4. The ability of the staff devising the match to (a) predict areas of a relationship which are apt to lead to confusion, initial disappointment, or conflict; and (b) to structure initial contacts so as to minimise potentially negative experiences.
  5. The ability of the staff devising the match to sensitively and positively interpret the need of each person to the other.

Follow-up and support activities are distinct, but closely related. Follow-up includes regular, systematic, low profile checks on the status of each relationship; provides the CA office with a measure of its effectiveness in meeting the needs of proteges; and identifies an advocate’s need for support.

Support activities provide practical and, when necessary, emotional support to advocate/protege relationships. The rating assesses the responsiveness of the CA office to needs for follow-up and support and the ability of the office to balance responsiveness to advocates’ and proteges’ needs with avoiding intrusion on developing relationships.

As advocates become involved in their relationships, some will desire additional training in some aspect of concern to the relationship. While orientation and follow along are necessary for each advocate, ongoing training should be available according to the choice of individual advocates. For efficiency, the advocacy office itself should only provide training when no other suitable sources of training are available. In particular, the citizen advocacy office should carefully weigh any decision to provide technologically oriented training on handicaps, available resources, etc. or training that would be better presented by people who practice another advocacy form. Highest priority for CA office-sponsored should be exploration of the values necessary for provision of moral services, and the handling of CA challenges and dilemmas.

Advocate associates are volunteers to the advocacy office who possess skills and knowledge useful to advocates and proteges. From time to time, an advocate associate can offer advice and perspective on such matters as the technical dimensions of the services which a protégé receives or seeks to receive, strategy development for management of a demanding situation, or advice on technical matters that have relevance to the relationships (e.g., advocate on managing an issue related on guardianship of property). A sufficient number of active advocate associates provides a safeguard against staff being drawn into individual advocacy activities, and provides a major support to advocates and their proteges who chose to avail themselves to their counsel. Advocate associates should be respectful of the advocate role in the relationship, and should avoid supplanting efforts the advocate is willing to make.

The advocacy office should recruit, orient and actively utilise a number of advocate associates who represent a variety of technical skills. Further, staff should actively link advocates to advocate associates, as necessary. Advocates should be informed of the availability of advocate associates, the skills they possess, and how to gain access to them.

Greater detail of the Citizen Advocacy Principles and Key Office Activites, are available within the CAPE Ratings document available on our Resources page.

Watch the Advancing Citizen Advocacy Conference

A wonderful amount of richly informative content was presented by many people from across the world at the Advancing Citizen Advocacy Conference, held in Melbourne Australia in February of 2023.

Now, through the efforts of the Citizen Advocacy Trust of Australia, you can watch the presentations from the conference completely free, on YouTube.


Advancing Citizen Advocacy Conference

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