Why we need dedicated funded advocacy organisations.

7istooyoung is a dynamic, energetic and apparently very effective campaign, focused on protecting lone parents from the worst excesses of the austerity Budget 2012. Despite the remarkably unpopular subject area (lets face it lone parents are not sick children or puppies), the three key organisations involved have not only generated public sympathy, but also political willingness, where none had existed.  No mean feat.

And what has this got to do with dedicated publicly funded advocacy organisations?  Two of the organisations (OPEN and the NWCI), are dedicated representative bodies for lone parents and women respectively.  Their primary function is to deliver representative, effective advocacy for the individuals and groups they represent.  They are publicly funded (albeit increasingly sparsely) to do this.  The third, Barnardos, while a strong service provider, also has very credible record of influencing public policy processes.

These issues, and more specifically this campaign, proves that you need multi annual and reliable sources of core funding for this work.  Without the long history of both OPEN and NWCI, its hard to imagine they could have responded so quickly or so effectively, and indeed with very little financial capacity.  They have strong networks with the parents affected, they know their stuff, and they know who to talk to.  The have the trust and credibility of the broader NGO sector, many of whom did not hesitate to weigh in behind this campaign.  I am not saying that this core funding has to be publicly provided, but it is hard to imagine any other source which can provide the same longevity.

But why dedicated advocacy organisations?  Put simply those organisations which are primarily concerned with service provision are firstly too busy delivering more services, to more people, with less money, and secondly are too bound up in protecting a close working relationship with the statutory sector (a very necessary one from their perspective) to risk that relationship by coming out of the trenches guns blazing.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but rather the reality of the role they are playing in sorting out peoples problems, and lone parents certainly have problems.

Regardless of where you stand on the substantive issues (and to be honest from where I am siting its hard to imagine too many people defending a decision to reduce to age 7, the age at which lone parents, will be bumped off a lone parent allowance and onto the job seekers allowance), this campaign has been a sophisticated contribution to Irish democratic debate, public consciousness, and the quality of our often chaotic policy-making process.  Its hard to imagine how it could have happened without consistent and sustained funding for the specific representative function of the organisations involved. Surely the quality of that contribution is worth investing in?

And that, is why I am doing this PhD.

Virtual Paper

Shortly after I started this semester's course work, I realised that if I were to print or copy every article I was expected to read, a small forrest would be doomed, and I would quickly run out of storage space. Sooooo...

I have to read on screen, like many others this is not my natural state of affairs.  Over the past few years I have gotten much better at editing on screen, but too frequently my instinct is to press the print button.

So I pimped my school bag, invested in an iPad, downloaded iannotate and bought a stylus.  And it is brilliant. At least so far I think it is.

BUT, I am not actually doing that thing where you are supposed to make a note of the article you just read, so that you have a short record on everything.  I like to think I am warming up to that particular practice.

So far I think the advantages are:

  1. Always have a whole pile of reading with you (so that you can carry it around and not read it), but it weighs nearly nothing.
  2. Annotations in the margin which you can print and record seperately and also navigate the document with.
  3. Dropbox.
  4. Lots of people ask you how you find it, and you get to show off the nifty apps you found!
  5. Reading off the screen is surprisingly fine.
  1. Sometimes, though not always, the page does not fit perfectly on the screen and you have to scroll around a bit.
  2. Iannotate has some very minor glitches, hopefully they will resolve these in time.
  3. My shiny new iPad broke, and I had to get a replacement.
  4. Kids like iPads, and generally they have sticky fingers.
  5. Bit awkward to read with direct sunlight on the screen, but in Ireland this is not a major problem.
  6. oh ok... even though I got an 'old' reduced price ipad, it still cost 400euro, mind you don't think it would take very long to spend that on copying and ink cartridges.
I think I am getting better at reading and thinking in this way.  Still wondering if I am absorbing as much though, but I do think that's training more than anything else.  Overall I would overwhelmingly recommend hoping on 'the cloud'.

Mind you so far I have only written relatively short assignments with a few references, wonder how I will find it, when I can't lie bundles of printed articles all over the living room floor...