Not the pioneer, but the ones who follow, who create the roads
Speaking with a few “coffee office mates” about cycling advocacy, there’s something powerful about advocacy which comes to mind. When there’s positivity advocacy, it validates a framing — ethical, capitalist, emotional, etc. — where it is no longer the case if something works. With advocacy in tow, there’s no need for further validation of culture change, it will change. The only question then is how deep that change will be.
Perhaps advocacy could be thought of as the presence of a change agent. When it convinces an area or change, there are those who will adapt, and those who will remove themselves. There’s a moment when a decision needs to be made — a shift where advocates cause positive, negative, or indifferent change. Yet, the change agent isn’t the reason for the change. They are merely the messenger. It is up to the environment to make the decision to follow or ignore. But, when they do, then the power of the advocate is exercised.
In a few engagements, Avanceé is granted access to the strategy and execution of forward-running programs. This is where Avanceé runs best — the statements go something like, “we aren’t ready to do what you are doing. But, we need your guidance to get closer to than where we are now.” Avanceé isn’t the author of the change, just an advocate towards getting there. We work alongside others who wish to be culture/change agents and then arrive at a place where enough information is gathered, or behaviors challenged, where the organization makes a choice to go forward or not.
Similar to cycling advocacy, it isn’t those who are already cycling who create the sustaining change. It is inviting those who are closer to the lived-experience of the region. Those who see other benefits of cycling (financial, health, local business support, etc.) as key to making that cultural change. It’s at that shift where advocacy moves from being a discussion to a transaction. A transaction which invites other discussions, and likely other transactions also. But, the advocate for the initial, won’t necessarily be the advocate for the next. They too will need to change — and become a follower to someone else’s advocacy plan.