As a sector we talk a lot about systems change work, but what’s not talked about often enough is how advocacy can help transform the systems we hope to impact.

According to the United Nations, advocacy encompasses a multitude of activities aimed at influencing policies and practices, which includes conducting research, providing direct services, supporting civil society organizations, informing the public, working with media and more.

Research shows that advocacy work, led by grassroots, community and activist organizations can lead to breakthroughs in policy and norms. In our work we’ve seen how it can be a critical catalyst that accelerates change for learners, which is why we are proud to support a number of partners doing this important, long term work.

Activists are behind recent historic racial equity wins in Brazil, showing how policy advocacy can accelerate systems change. The hard work of partners like CONAQ, Geledes and many others collectively led to last year’s historic renewal of Brazil’s affirmative action in higher education — a milestone for Black and Indigenous communities.

Similarly, there has been a number of promising wins on child care in the US, thanks to early learning advocates who have channeled their political power toward legislative wins from New Mexico to Vermont that expand access to child care across their respective states. Meanwhile, action-oriented coalitions like the CA Alliance for Student Parent Success, are forming to catalyze support for the 1 in 5 college students who are raising children.

Organizations are also coupling advocacy with other programs and services. African Visionary Fund has a unique model that funds, supports and advocates for African leaders and organizations to accelerate change in the region. Generation Hope in the US recently expanded their work beyond providing direct services for student parents, to include policy advocacy, technical assistance work for college campuses and more.

Sharing and amplifying research can also be a key to change—it reveals new insights and challenges established practices. A recent study by Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra and Instituto Alana showed that schools in Belém had successfully implemented practices to comply with a law that requires the teaching of Brazilian and Indigenous history and culture at public schools. Sharing these learnings could significantly help other schools struggling to implement the mandate, thereby catapulting racial equity in education in the country.

We believe that investing in advocacy is investing in the community and investing in the future of learners and families. And, building a movement, one that is sustainable and grounded in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, requires all of us to create space and support those who should be at the front seat of change. These stories we've shared remind us of the powerful potential of advocacy work— and why systems change requires us to stand behind and beside those at the frontlines.

We really think that the money we move is important, but also advocacy, given there’s more money that moves to the continent that needs to have changed practices.
Atti Worku, Co-CEO, African Visionary Fund