The next lines on advocacy appeared on the Career guidance for social justice blog. This text was co-written with Julie Chabot as part of my doctoral studies.

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Innovative partnership between professionals, their professional organisation and academics to support the advocacy activities of guidance counsellors in Québec.

For several years, Québec’s guidance counsellors (g.c.) have been reporting to their professional organisation issues of social inequalities that can limit the access of the populations served to guidance services. In addition to these issues, the g.c. point to the harmful influence of certain systemic conditions (e.g., work organization, restricted access to financial or organizational resources) on their service delivery to the populations they serve as well as on the public’s representation of their profession. Having neither the mandate nor the expertise that would allow it to respond to these grievances, the Ordre des conseillers et conseillères d’orientation du Québec (OCCOQ) has partnered with three professors from two Quebec universities (Prof. Eddy Supeno, Prof. Patricia Dionne of the Université de Sherbrooke and Prof. Simon Viviers of Université Laval). This is an innovative partnership on these themes in the field of guidance in Quebec, that brings together research and practice to address issues raised by the g.c., the outcomes of which could potentially have a longer-term influence on both the populations served and the g.c. profession. In the end, the idea of formalizing a potential advocacy competency specific to the g.c. profession in the OCCOQ General Competency Profile emerged. Indeed, such a general advocacy competence could represent the formal guidelines the g.c. needs in terms of support for the development of the power to act of the populations served and the awareness of the g.c. to the issues of discrimination and inequality, would be consistent with the mandate of protection of the public devolved to the OCCOQ as a professional organisation.

Concretely, advocacy can be defined as an action taken by a person involved that aims to remove barriers hindering access to quality services and the well-being of the populations served. It is divided into two forms, namely so-called social advocacy and so-called professional advocacy. Social advocacy involves actions done with or on behalf of the populations served, while the second form, professional advocacy, is done towards one’s own professional group. In both cases, the objective remains the same, to support the well-being of the populations served by acting on the barriers obstructing their access to quality services.

This partnership research received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to meet three specific objectives: 1- Produce a synthesis of advocacy practices and competencies among professional groups related to that of g.c.; 2- Provide a portrait of current province of Québec’s g.c. advocacy activities, practices, and situations; 3- Identify the components of a general advocacy competence. During the literature review carried out to meet the first specific objective, it appeared that there was a lack of information and knowledge about the profession of g.c. in the province of Québec context (e.g.: reserved acts, unique teaching level in Quebec) and justifying the realization of a specific research on the theme of advocacy.

In order to document advocacy issues and strategies within OCCOQ members and to provide a necessary empirical basis to support the development of a potential general advocacy competency, the research team recruited an appropriated sample of 33 g.c. from the province of Québec (22 women and 11 men). Participants were divided into five groups representing the main areas of practice (eight in Education, seven in employability, eight in Organizational and Private Practice, five in Health and Social Services and an “All Sectors” group with five g.c.). Individual interviews were also conducted with 12 individuals who hold a representative position in the field of guidance in the province of Québec, including professional associations or the OCCOQ to provide a complementary perspective to the discussion groups. These group and individual interviews were audio-recorded to be transcribed for a thematic analysis to document and identify the issues and strategies of social and professional advocacy.

To date, the first results of the research have been the subject of two professional articles published in the journal Orientation of the OCCOQ (January and August 2020) and a third has been submitted for the January 2022 edition. They also led to a presentation in June 2021 at the OCCOQ congress and a second is planned at the CERIC Cannexus congress in January 2022. This activity of sustained dissemination of research results as it progresses is one of the characteristics of this partnership. Indeed, it testifies to the concern, both research team and the OCCOQ, to feed the reflection and actions of guidance practice environments confronted with daily advocacy issues. Among the findings raised in these publications and oral communications, we note the close relationship between the social and professional advocacy issues documented and the strategies identified to mitigate different barriers (e.g., adapt interventions to adjust to services deemed unsuitable, promote the profession to counter the lack of recognition). It also appears that the relational skills acquired in initial training and mobilized by the participants in their professional practice, such as listening, empathy, dialogue, and link building, can be reinvested for social and professional advocacy purposes. Thus, without being able to rely on a general competence of formalized advocacy or on a formal training on this subject, those Québec’s g.c. seem to have a certain knowledge and mobilize certain skills associated with advocacy in their professional practice.

Now that the issues and strategies of social and professional advocacy have been documented, there are still elements to be defined, including the precise form that this advocacy general competence could take, its integration into the professional practice of g.c. and the role that the OCCOQ should play with its members to support them in the appropriation of this competence. These elements should soon be the subject of new oral and written communications.

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Original article on Career guidance for social justice