Mitchel Peters has written this piece for us concerning the next Principle of Citizen Advocacy:Here’s a proverb that you’ll be familiar with: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” That proverb applies to the first principle of Citizen Advocacy, Advocate Independence, discussed in a previous post. But it’s also applicable to one aspect of Program Independence, the second of the five principles of Citizen Advocacy, which will be explored here.
Program independence means that it’s the Citizen Advocacy program, without any outside influence or interference, which should be making such crucial decisions as: who is to be recruited as a protégé (the person to be matched with an advocate); the reason(s) for recruiting the protégé; who is to be recruited as an advocate; and how the advocacy match is to be supported.How can a Citizen Advocacy program ensure that it operates independently? Let’s answer that question with just a few “should-nots”:
The Citizen Advocacy program should not be part of — share administration and governance functions, or office space, with — service-providing organisations whose clients may be in need of independent advocacy, and who may be recruited as protégés by the Citizen Advocacy program;
The Citizen Advocacy program staff, and a significant number of the program’s governing board members, should not have ties to service-providing organisations and other parties that can compromise their loyalty to the program;
The Citizen Advocacy program should not receive its funding from service-providing organisations whose clients may be (potential) protégés, or from other sources which place conditions that will threaten its independence.
To underline the importance of program independence, let’s end with a hypothetical scenario and a couple of rhetorical questions. Let’s say that a Citizen Advocacy program receives a substantial amount of its funding from an entity which funds direct services to people with disabilities, and which itself also operates a service-providing arm. Can the Citizen Advocacy program realistically be expected to recruit and support advocates who will fearlessly advocate against that funder-provider, if necessary, on behalf of their protégé? Or is it more likely that the Citizen Advocacy program will find and support tame advocates whose “advocacy” won’t make life difficult for the funder-provider and itself? To paraphrase the above-quoted proverb: He who pays the Citizen Advocacy program will call the advocacy tune. And it may not be a pleasant tune for the program’s protégés.