What is the advocacy politics cluster/specialization?

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Advocacy is one way people can make a difference at home and abroad. Defined as the public support of a particular cause, advocacy is a social system by which convictions turn into actions. The advocacy politics cluster/specialization at the George Washington University (GW) shines a light on how lawmakers and political participants turn principles into practices for students to learn and implement upon entering the political world.

Blue binder with ‘Legislation’ label affixed to it.

One of three clusters/specializations offered in the program, the political advocacy cluster represents nine of the 36 credits that encapsulate the online Master’s in Political Management program. The robust curriculum that online students study over three courses serves as the practical knowledge backbone that GSPM graduates can use to form their campaigns around. It may only be three courses in total, but the tools students gain can last a lifetime.

Here are more details about the advocacy politics portion of GW’s online Master’s in Political Management program:

Issues Management

Issues underpin advocacy politics. Whether social, ideological or fiscal in nature, they frequently serve as the causes for debate and discussion that often manifest at polling places. Political participants — such as candidates or campaign advisors — must interact with the public so they can learn what issues truly resonate and if there are opportunities to turn problems into solutions.

In the Issues Management course, students can learn about some of the biggest issues of the day and how the three branches of government address these subjects in terms of making, executing and interpreting policies.

For example, one of the more contentious issues is gun control and how laws are counterbalanced with the protections found in the Second Amendment. A Gallup survey conducted shortly after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, showed that 67 percent of Americans support stricter gun control laws. Campaign advisors and policy advocates use such polls to determine the best course of action for what to do legislatively about contentious matters. Other focuses of the course include state referendums, ballot initiatives, ballot recalls, organizational structures and digital procedures.

How do politicians track issues or steer public opinion to champion a cause? What role does the recency effect play on advocacy? All this and more are addressed the Issues Management course, which can provide students with practical skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and social awareness.

Grassroots Engagement

Some of the most influential movements in the U.S. started at the local level and went on to become national causes. The Tea Party and Occupy movements are two contemporary examples that began small and grew quite large, garnering national attention. In Grassroots Engagement, students discover the strategies and techniques supporters of causes use to build and promote advocacy to gain attention. How do these efforts begin? What tools do campaigns use to reach people where they live and work? How does grassroots campaigning turn a group of people into a coalition of extraordinary influencers? Grassroots Engagement analyzes how these systems and strategies — such as database targeting, individual outreach, analytics, protesting and fundraising — are used to build support for causes across and among populations.

State and Intergovernmental Politics

While national politics often receive much of the limelight, local and state politics tend to affect Americans most directly. In town hall settings and auditoriums, community members gather to discuss issues that frequently lead to electoral decisions and ballot questions. In State and Intergovernmental Politics, online students can get a closer look at the various pressures state and local legislators feel from their constituencies and how they use these opinions to inform their decisions in a representative democracy.

State and Intergovernmental Politics balances contemporary happenings with history, examining how responsibilities are delegated to the states and how powers not expressly assigned to the federal government are “reserved for the states,” as referenced in the 10th Amendment. Additionally, this course uses surveys and polls to contextualize government institutions. For example, according to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, approximately two-thirds of respondents said government at the local level worked better than on the federal level. Just 33 percent thought the federal government was more effective in terms of advancing policy. Students will learn what to make of these observations and how they may inform advocacy politics.

Putting it all together

Advocacy politics uses influence to achieve desired political outcomes. The combination of Issues Management, Grassroots Engagement and State and Intergovernmental Politics that encapsulates the advocacy politics cluster/specialization at GW can help students develop skills and knowledge they can use in real-world scenarios.

Hand holding ink stamper that says ‘Legislation’

On all sides of the political spectrum and in countries around the world, GW graduates have gone on to influence public opinion and perception for the causes they hold dear. Visit the program website for more information on the areas of government where GSPM graduates have worked, what campaigns they’ve joined and other unique aspects of GW’s online political management program. From there, you can speak with an enrollment advisor who can help you see how the GSPM online program can fit around your busy schedule.

Recommended Reading:
What you can learn from George Washington University’s Master’s in Political Management (MPM) core curriculum
How local campaigns differ from national campaigns

Pew Research Center