Becoming an effective policy advocate:



Required Readings

Jansson, B. S. (2018). Becoming an effective policy advocate: From policy practice to social justice. (8th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning Series.

Chapter 6, “Committing to an Issue: Building Agendas” (pp. 176-203)

Edwards, H. R., & Hoefer, R. (2010). Are social work advocacy groups using Web 2.0 effectively? Journal of Policy Practice, 9(3/4), 220–239. Doi:10.1080/15588742.2010.489037

Video of Kingdon Model by Professor Zahariadis, Nicolas

Zahariadis, N. (2015). Multiple Streams Approach. Retrieved from

(Kingdon Model )

evaluate the accuracy of the Kingdon model of policymaking.

To prepare: Review Chapter 6 in your text, paying special attention to the section entitled “Three Challenges in Agenda Building.”


2- to 3 page paper evaluating the accuracy of the Kingdon model in policymaking. Address the following:

· Discuss the three streams Kingdon has identified where problems originate and provide your opinion on which one most accurately reflects how and why policies come about.

· Discuss the assertion that certain kinds of issues receive preferential treatment in problem solution and political streams.

· Discuss tactics that policy practitioners use within each of the three streams to increase the odds that a specific issue will be placed on decision agendas.

Journal of Policy Practice, 9:220–239, 2010

Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 1558-8742 print/1558-8750 online

DOI: 10.1080/15588742.2010.489037


Journal of Policy Practice

Are Social Work Advocacy Groups Using Web 2.0 Effectively?


University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas

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This article describes social work advocacy efforts, states what Web 2.0 technology has to offer social work advocacy, and presents original research on the current levels of Web 2.0 use on social work advocacy organization Web sites. This study employed a content analysis of a purposive sample of social work advocacy organization Web sites (N = 63). The researchers created a data collection instrument containing items related to communicating with policy makers, resource gathering, information, and use of specific Web 2.0 technologies. Findings reveal that social work organizations make good use of their Web sites for some advocacy activities, and grossly underutilize the Web forum for others. Furthermore, social work organizations do not use Web 2.0 often for advocacy. Barriers impeding Web 2.0 use and methods to overcome such barriers are also discussed. Implications for future social work education, practice, and research follow.

KEYWORDS advocacy, Web 2.0, Internet advocacy, social work advocacy, policy practice


The Code of Ethics for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) states that social workers “pursue social change” and “challenge injustice” (NASW, 2008). Advocacy aimed at informing the policy process serves as a key method that social workers use to fulfill this mission (Hoefer, 2006; Jackson-Elmoore, 2005). Social work advocates must take advantage of every advocacy tactic available to the greatest extent possible to ensure timely policy change for vulnerable populations.

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Advocacy tactics have been divided into “inside” and “outside” (Hoefer, 2001, 2005; Walker, 1993). Inside tactics are those that groups use to work directly with decision makers, such as lobbying. Outside tactics are employed by interest group members or the public to put pressure on decision makers. The Internet, as originally designed (Web 1.0), has been effectively used as an outside tactic to disseminate information from interest group leaders to decision makers and members of the public. Thus, the Web is a tool advocates can use to keep their message available at all times. In recent years, the Internet has moved from being a one-way highway to a more interactive entity, called Web 2.0. This second generation of Web site tools expands human services organizations’ advocacy efforts well beyond information dissemination. Through social media applications such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, videocasts, social networking, etc., human service organizations can promote information sharing, participatory knowledge generation, and collaboration building (Fine, 2007; McNutt, 2008; McNutt & Menon, 2008; Schembri, 2008). This article describes social work advocacy efforts, states what Web 2.0 Web sites have to offer social work advocacy, and presents original research on the current levels of Web 2.0 use on social work advocacy organization Web sites. Next, the article presents an introduction to barriers impeding Web 2.0 use and methods to overcome such barriers. Implications for social work education, practice, and research follow.


Social workers are uniquely positioned to influence policy through advocacy practice. According to Dunlop and Fawcett (2008, p. 143) “advocacy practice includes the following social work skills: 1) getting issues on the public agenda; 2) social marketing; 3) policy-related research to influence decision makers; 4) preparation of briefs and proposals; and 5) reforming internal program operations.” In practicing these skills, social workers bring to bear an intimate knowledge of social welfare issues and systems. Advocacy efforts are also supported by social workers’ ability to build consensus, diffuse conflict, and build on strengths to address system weaknesses. Despite the ethical mandate and potential for effective advocacy, social work organizations struggle with several limitations. Scanlon (2006) conducted a survey of executive directors from 56 NASW chapters to find that these agencies perceived themselves as having limited effectiveness. In addition, the respondents pointed to low staffing levels as a barrier to engagement in advocacy work. In other words, there were so few chapter staff members that little time was available to perform more than essential chapter operation duties. Furthermore, the directors noted difficulty in getting sufficient input from consumers and chapter members (Scanlon, 2006).

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As a result, chapter leaders faced a decision between eliminating advocacy efforts and moving ahead without member input. The former course of action would mean ignoring the professional mandate for promotion of social justice. The latter would neglect the ethical principle regarding the importance of human relationships and engaging others in the helping process (NASW, 2008). The profession must actively and continually support advocacy efforts because the persistent problems of vulnerable populations do not recede just because social workers struggle to find the resources to address them. Several scholars have identified strategies that social work agencies should employ to coordinate effective advocacy efforts; promote communication with decision makers, gather resources, and manage information. The following sections discuss approaches in each of these areas.

Communication with Decision Makers

In order for decision makers to act on advocate preferences, advocates must communicate their policy preferences to decision makers. This can be a daunting and mysterious process for social workers with little or no advocacy experience. Social work advocacy organizations can address this knowledge gap by providing instructions for locating one’s elected representative, sharing contact information for elected officials, presenting guidance for how to contact elected officials, and supplying templates to help format effective communications. The guidance will likely increase the probability that advocate correspondence will reach decision makers and that the information will be formatted to garner attention. Furthermore, an organization can increase individuals’ propensity to reach out to public officials by encouraging its members to make contact. A study of the use of the Internet to communicate with members of Congress conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation found that 84% of survey respondents who had contacted their elected representative were asked to do so by an interest organization (Goldschmidt & Ochreiter, 2008). Communications with decision makers serve as a very important factor in shaping social welfare policy (Zhou, Chan, & Peng, 2008). In social welfare policy discourse, the vulnerable populations served by the social work profession tend to have lobbying efforts that are less powerful than the interests of tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies, prison management entities, and other groups. As a result, the potential for policy makers to make decisions based on evidence presented by powerful interests is high. In addition, social welfare advocates and business lobbyists compete for the attention of the same elected officials. Social workers must use interactions with policy makers to furnish information in a compelling manner that could overcome this disadvantage and sway decisions (Williams, Foxman, & Saraswat, 2007).

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Resource Management

In today’s tough economic times, greater competition exists among advocacy organizations for fiscal support. As a result, social work organizations are challenged with making a stronger, more creative, and more persuasive case. These entities seek donations from individuals, businesses, other interest groups, and so on. In addition to monetary resources, organizations also need political capital. Petition drives provide a way to demonstrate the political support of an organization (Miller, 2009). Such an approach is effective in persuading policy makers that their position on an issue could affect their chances for re-election.

Information Sharing

Information is a primary tool used in advocacy efforts. Data can shift existing beliefs, motivate and mobilize supporters, and identify and define problems (Rich, 2001). For instance, providing issue information and summaries of proposed legislation to social workers alerts them regarding existence of problems and proposed solutions. Such action can serve to energize workers. Organizations can then benefit from and build upon this momentum by creating or identifying interventions for interested parties to implement. This direction prevents a loss of contributions from those who desperately want to do something but who do not know what to do. The degree to which organizations collect information from Web site users for advocacy purposes also influences outcomes. For instance, practitioners can provide compelling anecdotes that can persuade decision makers. Advocates can also use Web sites to exchange political information with one another. This could yield a more informed advocacy force, sharing of political resources, or collaboration on shared political agendas. Such a decentralized approach to knowledge building recognizes the inherent wealth of information and agency of social workers. Thackeray, Neiger, Hanson, & McKenzie (2008, p. 339) demonstrated the logic in this type of approach by stating, “nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something.”



WEB 2.0

Web 2.0, also called social media, facilitates decentralized knowledge building. It is a relatively recently developed set of Web-based technologies that allows for a high level of frequent interaction in multiple web environments between and among groups of people. Web 2.0 is an advancement of the World Wide Web or Web 1.0. One can understand the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 by thinking of Web 1.0 as read only. People are limited to reading information from Web 1.0 Web sites. Web 2.0, on the other hand,

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has read and write capabilities. As a result, Web 2.0 site users can read information and contribute information to Web 2.0 components (Imperatore, 2009; MacManus, 2009). Some examples of Web 2.0 technology include blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, video sharing, social networking Web sites, social bookmarking, page-sharing features, and so on. Many of these technologies allow real-time updates that enable users to access the most recent information (MacManus, 2009). Viral distribution is another valuable capability of Web 2.0 technology (Thackeray et al., 2008). When something “goes viral”, it spreads very quickly to a large number of viewers.


Blogs allow authors to post articles, thoughts, memoirs, or any other text publicly. Viewers of these web-based logs can usually comment on the content contained within. Discussion can then ensue between the author and readers and among readers (Dunlop & Fawcett, 2008)., a Web site owned by Google, provides a platform that allows individuals to create free blogs ( Another source of free blogging, WordPress, is available at

RSS Feeds

Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds deliver regularly changing Web content directly to the RSS feed subscriber ( RSS feeds allow Web users to subscribe to a Web component like a blog, Google search, or a Web page, and get automated messages about updates. Individuals can also create an RSS feed through a search provider like Google. This subscription will send an alert to the user with links to every Webpage (newspaper stories, blogs, etc.) that added the search term in the past 24 hours.


Wikis are Web sites that allow subscribed users to update the content on the Web site. This feature facilitates collaborative writing. In a wiki, one person will draft text, and any subscriber can edit it by adding, deleting, or reorganizing ( Wikipedia (http://www. is a well-known example of a wiki.


Web sites also have various audio and video-sharing features. Podcasting feeds work similarly to RSS feeds. They deliver links to digital audio, video,


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or combined audio/video files instead of text. These podcasts can be played on a portable device like an iPod or on a computer. Sources of free and feebased podcasts include National Public Radio (, (, and the music purchase and download site, itunes (

Video Sharing

Web 2.0 has some additional social components. Video sharing sites such as YouTube ( allow subscribed users to upload video content. The video is then freely available to anyone who accesses the site (Dunlop & Fawcett, 2008). YouTube videos played a noticeable role in the 2008 elections. In the spring of 2008, the Barack Obama Campaign had uploaded 788 videos and the Hilary Clinton Campaign had uploaded 298. One of Barack Obama’s videos had been viewed 1.32 million times (Teinowitz, 2008).

Social Networking

Social networking sites such as LinkedIn (, Twitter (, and Facebook ( allow people to connect electronically with others. Once connected, these friends can view each other’s personal information, user generated updates, pictures, and more (Dunlop & Fawcett, 2008). One of the most touted features of these sites is the ability for users to identify friends of friends with whom to network.


Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking serves as an additional social tool. This feature allows subscribed users to make note of Web content that is of interest to them. They store this information using a social bookmarking site such as Delicious (, Digg (, and StumbleUpon ( The contents of a user’s social bookmarks can be accessed by anyone or specific people to whom the bookmark user has given access (Dunlop & Fawcett, 2008).



Advocacy efforts have gained new tools from the use of the Internet . McNutt (2006) identified four main purposes for Web advocacy: (1) research and information gathering; (2) public awareness and education; (3) organizing and coordinating; and (4) pressure and influence. Specifically, utilization

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of the Internet to influence the policy process can include the ability to send out mass e-mails for advocacy alerts and Web sites that allow an easily accessed location for information. Early efforts in using the Internet have been heavily focused on the transmission of information from the sender to the user, with much less emphasis on creating dialogue and two-way communication (Imperatore, 2009; McNutt, 2008). Many social work advocates learned to use the early Web tools. Organizations use e-mail distribution lists to share information with members. Social workers can also visit advocacy organization Web sites to view information about upcoming events, summaries of past policy interventions, analysis of legislation under consideration, directions about communicating with elected officials, and other political information (Salcido & Seek, 1992). These mechanisms for information dissemination use Web 1.0 and they primarily involve distribution of information from the organization to individuals. Web 2.0, on the other hand, strives to move beyond communication between dyads to communal conversations (Imperatore, 2009; Schembri, 2008). Web 2.0 improves Web advocacy by widening the available knowledge base from a few contributors (those who control or own the Web site) to anyone who comes across the Web site . By facilitating knowledge sharing and generation online, Web 2.0 components also create transparency (Cronk, 2007). Furthermore, organizations can use Web 2.0 technology for effective advocacy efforts that require little staff time to maintain and that increase access for member input.

Previous Research

Researchers have conducted several studies about organizations’ use of Web advocacy and Web 2.0. For instance, the Overbrook Foundation surveyed its grantees to determine the degree to which these human rights organizations used Web 2.0 technologies. The study found that most organizations did not operate beyond Web 1.0. Many of the organizations felt that gaining the knowledge to shift the technology in their Web sites was a daunting task. The study also discovered that of those groups who did use Web 2.0 technology, many were not using it effectively (Fine, 2007). Williams et al. (2007) compared Web-based advocacy among for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Not surprisingly, the study found that for-profit organizations engaged in significantly more advocacy than nonprofit organizations. The study also confirmed the positive relationship between financial resources and the number of advocacy activities. Therefore, human service organizations with constrained finances must increase their advocacy efforts in order to have an impact that is comparable with competing business interests. Finally, the nonprofit organizations engaged in advocacy

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related to community and charitable issues more than environment and diversity issues. Suarez (2009) added to the Web advocacy knowledge base with his investigation of the degree to which 161 nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Bay area included advocacy or civic engagement information on their Web sites. He found that organization size and degree of government funding did not influence whether an organization included advocacy components on their Web site. On the other hand, the study discovered that organizations with a focus on environmental issues, human rights issues, and participation in advocacy were more likely to have advocacy components on their Web sites (Suarez, 2009). While this work made a considerable contribution to the knowledge base, it was limited in that it measured participation in Web site advocacy as a dichotomous variable.

As a result, it did not generate data about the types and frequencies of advocacy participation. Similarly, Kenix (2007) studied 70 nonprofit organization Web sites selected from a database of nonprofit organizations. Her examination extended well beyond Web advocacy, and focused on several features including use of the Internet as a public space for political dialogue, to facilitate activism, and as a vehicle for fund-raising. Kenix highlighted evidence based expectations for the potential for organization Web sites to bolster advocacy efforts. Unfortunately, she found that this potential is largely unrealized. Less than 5% of her sample included information about e-mail groups, had a chat room, or used a discussion forum. In addition, less than 5% of organizations provided contact information for elected officials, and no organization Web sites included an online petition. Furthermore, the study found that 65% of organizations conducted Web-based fund-raising. Finally, only about 22% of Web sites included components that allow users to search the site (Kenix, 2007).

These studies espouse the considerable potential of Web advocacy while demonstrating that nonprofit organizations have not fully taken advantage of this approach. The study detailed here contributes to the existing literature through its specific focus on social work organizations. The studies previously mentioned included entities focused on particular issues and/or within a variety of professional backgrounds. This study is also unique in that it went beyond identifying the presence or absence of Web 2.0 technology. It assessed the degree to which the components are used.


This study employed a content analysis of a purposive sample of social work advocacy organization Web sites to determine how effectively these organizations use Web 2.0 technology

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To gather the sample, the researchers conducted two searches using the Google search engine available at The first search used the search terms “social work” and “organization,” and the second search used the terms “social work” and “association.” For each of these search terms, the researchers reviewed the first 100 results. From these results, researchers excluded Web sites that did not include an advocacy or legislative related link. The list was further culled to only include national, regional, or state-level organizations in the United States. In other words, city and county level organizations were excluded. Finally, the list was expanded to include chapters of national organizations that met the search criteria. This preliminary list consisted of 111 organizations. Of these 111 organizations’ Web pages, only 63 (57%) contained advocacy information. This study reports on findings from the 63 Web sites that demonstrate an advocacy agenda.

Data Collection


The researchers created a data collection instrument based on a review of the literature on Web 2.0 and Web site advocacy effectiveness. The instrument contained items related to communicating with policy makers, resource gathering, information, and use of specific Web 2.0 technologies. Generally, the tool determined the types of Web-based advocacy activities in which the organizations engaged, and the extent to which they used Web 2.0 for these tasks.


Using the data collection instrument, we examined social work advocacy organizations’ sites to determine how many and which features are currently in use. With the exception of 10 Web sites (16%), each Web site was reviewed by one researcher. The data collected from the dually reviewed Web sites were compared to ensure inter-coder reliability. By dividing the number of times that the researchers agreed by the number of coding possibilities, researchers determined an agreement rate of .91. This rate exceeds the acceptable rate of .81 (Schutt, 2006). Each researcher examined an equal proportion of study Web sites. This review included Web sites related to the Clinical Social Work Association, School Social Work Association, NASW, and several other social work organizations. During the reviews, a data collection form for each Web site was completed. The researchers then entered the data into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Researchers then used the software

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to create descriptive statistics for each study variable. Researchers also performed Chi-square tests of association to compare NASW with non-NASW organizations.


This section has two parts: the first details use of the various Internet components first examining the use of Web 1.0 features, and then the use of Web 2.0 components. The second part shows differences between general social work organizations and state chapters of the National Association of Social Workers. Results show a very limited use of Web 2.0 features on both NASW and non-NASW-related organizational Web sites as of September 2009.

All Sites

This part of the article examines the data from all of the organizations, breaking the results into the areas of communicating with decision makers, gathering resources, and disseminating information.


Web sites can assist users in communicating with decision makers in a number of ways. One way is to provide the name, address, phone number, and fax number of legislators based on the ZIP code provided by the site user. Another way is to provide an e-mail form that the user could fill in and then send a message directly to the decision maker without having to leave the organization’s Web site. Typically, just over half of the organizations in the study facilitated communication with decision makers. For instance, 59% of organizations facilitated identification of decision makers, asked Web site users to contact decision makers, provided contact information for decision makers, and provided guidance for how to contact decision makers. On the other hand, only two organizations (3% of the sample) used Web 2.0 technologies in performing these tasks. In addition, 19% of Web sites provided templates for writing decision makers. Only 6% of the sample did so using Web 2.0 technologies, however.


Because of the rise of secure Web sites, it is very safe to use credit cards or a third party service such as PayPal to transfer funds from a Web site user to an organization. Many nonprofits now include this ability on their Web sites in

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order to facilitate charitable donations to their organization. Of the Web sites in the study, only 10 (11%) included components for fund-raising (i.e., fundraising for an advocacy effort, fund-raising for a political campaign, accepting online donations). Only 2% of the sample used Web 2.0 technology for fundraising. No Web sites included an online petition drive, which is another type of resource—the resource of the number of activists committed to a cause.


The Internet is a fantastic place to find information, as whatever is on the Web is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The organizations in our study seem to understand this. An overwhelming majority of social work organizations (90%) provided Web site users with information to raise awareness about an advocacy issue (just having information about the organization does not qualify as information regarding an advocacy issue). Only 2% of the organizations used Web 2.0 components. A majority of the Web sites provided users with specific actions to take (54%), such as to write a letter or make a phone call to a decision maker. Only 2% used Web 2.0 for this purpose. Web site users could not rely on social work organizations to provide a venue to interact with other advocates. Only 11% of sites did this, and only 7% used Web 2.0 technology. Listserv contact information was located on only 6% of the Web sites. Finally, only 6% of organizations used their Web sites to collect survey data, and only 3% used Web 2.0 for this purpose. About a quarter (21%) of the Web sites provided summaries of legislation online, and 67% posted general advocacy document on their sites. None of them used Web 2.0 for this. Interestingly, only 65% of organizations provided a statement of the organization’s point of view on policies. A vast majority of Web sites (84%) provided access freely to users without requiring a subscription. Only 35% of Web sites allowed viewers to easily access this information using a Web site search engine.


The study found a range in the types of Web 2.0 components used by social work organizations. Eighteen percent of the Web sites included a link to a social networking Web site. Blogs were present on 16% of the Web sites in this study. Fourteen percent of the sites included an option for sending a Web site page content electronically to others. Only 6% of the sites had social bookmarking options. RSS feeds and text message components were present on 5% of the Web sites. Web sites featured podcasts and tools facilitating inperson meetings (e.g., MeetUps) on 3% and 2% of sites, respectively. No Web sites included virtual chats, instant messaging, or wikis (see Table 1)

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NASW Organizations versus Non-NASW Organizations

Given the results described above, we wondered whether the widespread lack of use of the Internet’s capabilities might be related to a lack of knowledge of what was available or a lack of resources to implement the features. We hypothesized that organizations that were associated with a national organization might have access to better information and more resources. Thus, we tested whether NASW chapters at the state level had different levels of Web based advocacy components, including Web 2.0 features. We find that a

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surprisingly stark distinction exists between NASW (n = 42) and non-NASW organizations (n = 21) with regard to engagement in Web advocacy.


Over four-fifths of NASW organizations (83%) provided contact information for decision makers while only 10% of non-NASW organizations did the same. Guidance for how to contact decision makers was provided by 81% of NASW organizations while non-NASW organizations provided guidance in only 14% of cases. NASW asked people to contact and facilitate identification of decision makers in 79% of cases. Only 19% of non-NASW organizations did this. All of these differences are statistically significant at the p < .001 level. The difference was less stark (and not statistically significant), regarding providing templates for writing decision makers. NASW led with 21% of its organizations doing so, and 14% of non-NASW organizations did so.


No non-NASW Web sites fund-raised for advocacy efforts or accepted online donations. On the other hand, 17% and 15% of NASW organizations engaged in these activities respectively. There was no difference in the percentages of NASW and non-NASW organizations that fund-raised for a political campaign (10%). None of these differences is statistically significant.


Both NASW and non-NASW organizations overwhelmingly provided Web site users with information to raise awareness about advocacy issues (90%). NASW and non-NASW organizations also do not differ greatly with regard to providing a venue to interact with other advocates (10% and 14% respectively). Non-NASW organizations (10%) exceed NASW organizations (5%) in conducting surveys of site users. None of these differences is statistically significant. The most remarkable difference in information dissemination activities relates to providing specific advocacy actions for site users to take. Seventy-six percent of NASW organizations do this while only 10% of nonNASW groups follow suit (p < .001). NASW provided Web site visitors access to online documents at a greater rate than non-NASW organizations (74% and 52%, p = .023)). NASW also used a listserv for advocacy in more cases (10% and 5%). Sixty-seven and 62% of NASW and non-NASW organizations provided a statement of the organization’s point of view, respectively. NASW provided more Web site restrictions with 76% providing Web site access to members only. All non-NASW Web sites provided unrestricted access to advocacy information.

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Web site search engine. Only 24% of non-NASW Web sites did the same (none of these last four variables has statistically significant differences in results).


Twenty percent of NASW Web sites included a link to a social networking Web site, 21% included an option for sending page content electronically to others, 14% included videos, 10% featured social bookmarking options, 7% had RSS feeds, 7% had text messaging features, 5% used podcasts, and 2% featured MeetUps. Conversely, none of these features were on nonNASW Web sites. The only Web 2.0 components included on non-NASW Web sites were blogs (10%; NASW 19%). Of these variables, only the differences in having a social networking site link and having options for sharing Web site information are statistically significantly different (p < .05 in both cases). (See Table 2 for a comparison of NASW and non-NASW organizations.)



Social Work Organizations and Web Advocacy

Social work organizations make good use of their Web sites for some advocacy activities, and grossly underutilize the Web forum for others. For instance, more than half of the organizations included in this study provided information that would help social workers raise their awareness about social issues, decide on specific actions to take, and communicate with decision makers. This same proportion also posted advocacy documents on their Web sites, made these documents available to everyone, and presented the organization’s point of view on policy issues. These functions allow social workers to connect with policy makers in an informed manner, and this is an important approach for influencing policy decisions (JacksonElmoore, 2005). It is interesting to note that some Web sites indicated that specific advocacy material is to be accessed by members only. However, it is sometimes possible to view this “hidden” information by using the Web site’s search engine to locate it. On the other hand, social work organizations passed on a significant opportunity to use their Web sites to gather resources. This is particularly critical because Scanlon et al. (2006) found that many social work organizations felt that they did not have enough resources to perform more advocacy tasks. In addition, Williams et al. (2007) discovered that organizations with more financial resources engaged in more advocacy activities. By not increasing revenue, social work organizations are limiting their advocacy

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 capacity. Despite this critical limitation, social work organizations in this study perform more collective fund raising than the nonprofit organizations in the Kenix (2007) study. Organizations are also missing the opportunity to persuade and mobilize social workers. Less than one quarter used their Web sites to share legislative information, facilitate dialogue among advocates, or capture information from social workers about policy issues. In addition, just over half of organizations provided readers with their positions on policy issues.

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This would be acceptable if the Web sites also provided a space for social workers to engage in a critical dialogue to shape their own views. This is not the case, however. As a result, social workers are more likely to leave Web sites informed but undirected. If organizations do not make a shift in these areas, they will continue to respond to policy interventions rather than shaping them. This study also uncovered considerable differences between NASW and non-NASW organizations. The infrastructure created by the national NASW office likely accounts for much of this difference. For instance, the national headquarters contracted with a Web design vendor to offer discounts to chapters. Many of the chapters have taken advantage of the reduced rates, and they have similar layouts as a result. In addition, several of the chapters provide links to the national entity’s advocacy materials. The access to this resource allows chapters to focus on state issues rather than divide their attentions between state and federal politics. Furthermore, many chapters take advantage of the national organization’s relationship with Capwiz. Several states use the vendor to furnish legislative alerts and instructions for contacting elected officials.

How Effectively Are Social Work Organizations Using Web 2.0?

Social work organizations clearly do not use Web 2.0 often for advocacy. No Web 2.0 component was present in more than one-fifth of the Web sites. Several technologies were wholly absent, such as chats, instant messaging, and wikis. Furthermore, when Web 2.0 is used, it is not used effectively. Some blogs in study Web sites have never received a posting, other blogs have not received a new posting for some time, and additional blogs have been neglected and overrun with spam. This study yields a more surprising finding, however. Social work organizations do not actively use Web 1.0 to further their advocacy efforts, either. Of the 111 social work organization Web sites initially identified, only 63 (57%) contained any advocacy material at all. Several of the Web sites that are coded as containing advocacy material have only outdated advocacy material. The political context is ever changing and social workers must remain abreast of these changes in order to take advantage of opportunities to affect change as they arise.

Overcoming Barriers to Web Advocacy

Several studies have identified barriers to use of technological resources in Web-based advocacy (Cronk, 2007; Fine, 2007; McNutt & Menon, 2008). These barriers include technology-related anxiety, and fear of losing control of the advocacy message. This section discusses these barriers in detail and provides guidance for overcoming them.

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Some agencies may hesitate to use Web 2.0 technology because leaders may believe that it will require an expensive investment in a technological infrastructure. Many organizations feel that they do not have the technological experience, staff time, or will to invest in a new infrastructure. Fortunately, many Web 2.0 components are available without cost. In addition, they tend to be easy to use. Furthermore, many Web sites include how-to videos and step-by-step guides (Fine, 2007). As a result, social work organizations will likely find that that Web 2.0 use does not require considerable resource commitment or skill building.


Social work organizations may fear that allowing others to create and edit publically available material on their Web site will place the organization at risk. They may be concerned that a user may post inappropriate, inflammatory, or false information that will reflect negatively upon the organization (Fine, 2007). Fortunately, Web 2.0 components contain fire alarm features that allow users to monitor the Web site and report any undesirable content to the Web site owner. In addition, Web 2.0 use is widely understood, and users will be able to discern user-generated content from that produced by the organization




The methods used in this study contain limitations because it used nonrandom sampling and content analysis. Specifically, researchers cannot be certain that they considered all social work organizations for exclusion or inclusion in the sample. No comprehensive list of social work organizations exists, so the researchers chose to use purposive sampling to identify these entities. Furthermore, researchers cannot assert that the sample is representative of the population from which it was drawn. Therefore, the purposive sampling employed in this study precludes researchers from generalizing findings to all social work organizations. As a result, inferential analysis should be interpreted with caution. In addition, the quantification of qualitative data during content analysis allowed for researcher bias (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 1996). In other words, it is possible that researchers interpreted Web sites based on their own unique perspective. The presence of inter-rater reliability in this study lessens the likelihood that bias considerably influenced results.

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Are Advocacy Groups Using Web 2.0 Effectively?


In assessing the use of Web 2.0 technology by social work organizations for advocacy, this study made unique contributions to the social work and the Web advocacy bodies of literature. Study researchers have identified several ways to translate study findings for social work education, practice, and research. A discussion of these implications follows.

Social Work Education

A study of licensed social workers indicated that nearly one-half of respondents felt that they did not get training in their social work programs that would allow them to effectively utilize political interventions (Ritter, 2008). To prevent this perception by future social workers, social work education programs should provide students and faculty with training related to electronic advocacy. In addition, social work students should be given opportunities to become competent in electronic advocacy through completion of course assignments (Dunlop & Fawcett, 2008; Moon & deWeaver, 2005).


Social work organizations absolutely must increase their prowess in an increasingly Web-based political environment. Organizations with positions in direct opposition of those held by the profession will prevail if social workers do not make relevant and persuasive contributions to the online discourse. In addition, social work organizations must support social workers’ advocacy interventions through the provision of information about decision makers, issues, and advocacy opportunities.


Social work researchers must continue to examine the use of web advocacy and the use of Web 2.0 components. Such research should translate into actions that organizations can take to improve their advocacy effectiveness. Studies should also inform organizations about the changing Internet advocacy environment. This will keep practitioners aware of opportunities and threats related to social justice policies


Web 2.0 technologies increase inclusion in political discourse, accessibility of information, and the ability to form and maintain relationships to strengthen 238 H. R. Edwards and R. Hoefer advocacy efforts. All of these features are wholly consistent with the profession’s ethical code. Despite the considerable benefits of Web 2.0 advocacy, the social work profession has been slow to adopt the new technologies. This hesitation could be partly due to misinformation and limited staff time. These challenges must be overcome in order to meet the profession’s ethical mandate to engage in policy practice to improve the lives of vulnerable populations.


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