The Role of Allyship & Advocacy in Amplifying Marginal Voices

An abbreviated version of Abiola Ajetomobi’s keynote address during our recent conference ‘Solidarity in Diversity: Highlighting Marginal Voices in Academia, Practice, and Society’ convened with the Melbourne Social Equity Institute, from 19–23 July 2021.

Abiola Ajetomobi is the director of Innovation Hub at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Listen to the full lecture she delivered on Friday 23 July 2021 here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4nD9fj6N5I).

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  • As allies and advocates, we must ensure our actions and inactions provide opportunities for the communities we represent to thrive, speak up, be heard, and maximise their potential.
  • Be intentional about what you are advocating for and keep checking in with your why so you are not caught up in your self-gratification and narrow views.
  • Always remind yourself that being an advocate is not a badge of honour. It comes with significant responsibility and sacrifices.
  • Get deeply familiar with the issues affecting minorities, not letting your assumptions and mental models frame your perceptions and conclusions.
  • Make sure your position is always to stand beside, not in front of. Your role as an ally must not rob people of their empowerment, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Do your role as an ally or advocate it with a nuance that the things you would learn in the process are unfamiliar to you or different to your well-meaning understanding.
  • Seek a more profound understanding that can drive cultural shifts.
  • As allies and advocates, be prepared to make mistakes because you will. Humility, when you are told you got it wrong, will be your best asset.
  • You must be at peace with the fact that the group you represent are not obligated to like you, thank you, feel sorry for you, or forgive you. Your feelings do matter, but this is not the space to get your feelings validated.

Organisational Perspective

  • Participants must be put at the centre of managing and leading nonprofits. Placing participants at the centre requires rethinking how they are affected by the management of these organisations, not simply by the social change strategies adopted or the programs delivered.
  • Organisations that are intentional go beyond having a statement and a strategic plan to invest in resources and training that assist staff in recognising their biases, undergo a diversity audit, and create a plan and strategy tied to the Leader’s KPIs.
  • Investigate the intersecting drivers of marginalisation and exclusion, exacerbating factors, and barriers to inclusion.
  • Invest in training that analyses needs and rights, and barriers to inclusion in context-specific ways.
  • Develop Initiatives to build the capacities of specific rights holders to understand and advocate for their rights.
  • Invest in resources and information about issues relating to marginalisation and exclusion. Promote these resources publicly so external stakeholders such as funders, lawmakers, community members and allies are educated on what it means to truly amplify voices and empower communities to respond to their own needs.