During the month of September, CALCASA staff have been conducting pilot trainings on Institutional Advocacy and creating systems change to benefit survivors.  Using tools adapted from participation in the Advocacy Learning Center, a project of Praxis International and Manavi, CALCASA staff developed a training specific to the needs of California Rape Crisis Centers on how to develop skills in institutional advocacy, a critical tool for our work.  Whether it is developing a change in the policy of the local Housing Authority related to emergency transfers for sexual assault survivors, or participating as an active partner in effecting the response protocol for local law enforcement to sexual assault survivors, the work that we do every day requires that we learn to use the systems that survivors are impacted by as partners, and become leaders in effecting change within those systems.
It is also critical that we understand how systems are structured and what leads workers within them, including advocates, to make their daily decisions.  While the work we do with survivors one-on-one is critical to that survivors capacity to heal and move forward, the work we do with systems allows us to proactively create a better, more effective world for that survivor, and all others, while developing partnerships and relationships that allow us to reap the benefits and fill the gaps for survivors who may never come to us, but will none the less come in contact with those systems.
As advocates we stand on the shoulders of change agents in our past, who have been part of creating institutional change on behalf of survivors including changes in the law, the development of SART programs, naming behaviors like “sexual harassment” and “spousal rape”, and requiring our systems to look at the needs of those who may have otherwise been overlooked including persons with disabilities, youth, immigrants, LGBT survivors and men.  Now it’s our turn to really work towards integrating the needs of all survivors into the work that we do by asking ourselves “Am I creating change for ONE survivor or for ALL survivors?”
What have you done to create institutional change recently?
Watch four training attendees’ thoughts about CALCASa’s recent training below.