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Ryan and Leanne Clarke Prizes in Advocacy and Active Citizenship


Student Information

What are The Clarke Prizes in Advocacy?

The prizes were established in 2014 by Ryan Clarke (Class of ’88) and his wife Leanne to:

  • reward distinguished advocacy demonstrated by students who are advocating or wish to advocate for some type of meaningful social and/or political change;
  • enable the Faculty of Social Sciences to offer an exceptional opportunity for its students who have an interest in the area of advocacy;
  • provide financial assistance to the winning recipient(s);
  • provide participants with an unforgettable and valuable learning experience outside the classroom;
  • empower students to partake in advocacy while strengthening important professional and life skills; and
  • highlight real issues and work towards bringing about real change in the community.


What you need to know

What is advocacy?

Advocacy has been defined as the action of speaking up, drawing attention to an important issue and directing decision makers towards a solution.

What types of activities are eligible?

Students can explore any topic related to advocacy and active citizenship. Topics might include poverty alleviation, housing, policy change, women’s issues, student fees, indigenous issues, access to education, environment, etc.

Students at all stages of their campaigns are encouraged to participate. This can be an idea for a future campaign or for a campaign already in-progress.

Students are encouraged to be creative and use this as an opportunity to do one or more of the following. This list is not exhaustive:

  • Expand upon advocacy or citizenship work you started in a course
  • Explore a topic you are passionate about
  • Create awareness for change related to an organization you may be volunteering with
  • Explore a topic related to a future career of interest

What do the prize recipients earn?

Financial prizes are awarded to the first, second and third place winners - first place $3000; second place $2000; and third place $1000.

All prize recipients will also receive professional feedback from Ryan Clarke about their advocacy campaign.  Mr. Clarke graduated from McMaster University with a BA and MA in Political Science, and an LLB from Western University. After practicing as a lawyer he started his own business providing advocacy services for organizations, businesses and individuals. He has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share and a passion for the role of the Social Sciences in advocacy work.

Prize recipients will receive one-on-one support from the Office of Experiential Education (EE) about how to incorporate this experience effectively into their resume and LinkedIn profile.

Who is eligible to apply?

Clarke Prizes in Advocacy are open to undergraduate students registered in a degree program in the Faculty of Social Sciences.  Students may apply as individuals or as a group.  Students are able to submit only one proposal per year. 

How do you learn more and/or sign up to participate?

General Information Sessions

Students are invited to attend one of the general information sessions where they will learn more information about the Clarke Prize, the application process, and tips and tricks when applying. Students can register to attend an information session on OSCARplus.

Advocacy Information Session with Ryan Clarke

Attending this session is strongly recommended as it will outline key aspects of effective advocacy to assist in the development of individual or group campaigns. Students do not have to have an idea confirmed in order to attend this session as it may assist with encouraging ideas to explore. There will be time for questions.

Submit Intent to Participate

Students must submit an intent to participate via on-line form by the deadline in order to participate in the poster showcase. The on-line submission form can be found here.  Information submitted in this form is NOT used for judging purposes.

Poster Showcase

Students who registered to participate must attend the poster session, where the judges will circulate to each candidate and evaluate their advocacy campaign.

What are the important dates to remember?

  • November and January – General information session
  • January – Advocacy information session (presented by Ryan Clarke)
  • February – Intent to Participate submissions accepted until February 9 at 4pm
  • March – Poster Showcase (March 2, 9am-2:30pm). Students must be available for the full duration of the showcase to allow time for judging.

What is the poster format?

Submissions may be in traditional poster format or electronically as a PowerPoint, Prezi, ePortfolio or other approved format.  All students are asked to also provide the presentation in printed format for judges. 

Students must notify EE staff of their presentation format ASAP and at least 7 days prior to the poster showcase event.  If students are presenting with a physical poster, students must specify the poster format (self-standing, poster board), as well as the dimensions of the poster so that the appropriate space may be allocated at the event.


What is the review process?

Submissions will be judged by a committee organized by the Office of Experiential Education. The judges will include one community representative, one faculty member from the Faculty of Social Sciences, and one staff member from the Office of Experiential Education.

How are applications evaluated?

At the showcase, a panel of judges will evaluate the poster/electronic presentation content and ask students a series of questions to identify the winners. The judges will rank submissions based on the following criteria:

  1. A clear and well-focused description of the problem/issue your advocacy campaign is intended to address
  2. A clear explanation of the goals of your advocacy campaign
  3. A clear explanation of how the campaign will impact society
  4. A clear explanation of the steps that will take you to your goals including assessing the feasibility of these steps
  5. A clear explanation of how winning one of the Clarke Prizes will help you to better reach those goals
  6. Demonstration of depth of knowledge and expertise on your subject

 Judges will have a short time (approximately 3-5 minutes) to assess your submission. Be sure to prepare a presentation that can be presented in that time frame.

 Students are strongly encouraged to review the Quick Tips on Effective Advocacy resource when preparing their submission.

How are winners notified?

Winners will be notified at the conclusion of the poster session.