Agency in Social Justice - Definition and Explanation - The Oxford Review - OR Briefings

Agency in Social Justice – Definition and Explanation

Understanding Agency in Social Justice: Definition and Examples

In the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the concept of agency holds significant importance. Agency in social justice refers to the capacity of individuals or groups to act independently and make their own choices, influencing their lives and the world around them. This term encompasses the empowerment of marginalised communities, enabling them to advocate for their rights and bring about positive change.


Agency in social justice acknowledges that every individual or group has the inherent right to assert themselves, make decisions, and take actions that shape their destiny. It emphasises the need to recognise and amplify the voices of those who have historically been disenfranchised or oppressed due to factors like race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or disability.

Key Components of Agency:

  1. Empowerment: Agency involves empowering marginalised communities by providing them with the tools, resources, and opportunities necessary to exercise control over their lives.
  2. Autonomy: It recognises the autonomy of individuals and groups to define their own needs, goals, and aspirations, free from external constraints or coercion.
  3. Advocacy: Agency encourages advocacy efforts aimed at challenging systemic injustices and promoting social change. It involves speaking out against discrimination, inequality, and injustice.
  4. Intersectionality: Acknowledging the intersectionality of identities is crucial in understanding agency in social justice. It recognises that individuals may face multiple forms of oppression simultaneously, and their agency is shaped by these intersecting factors.


  1. Youth Activism: The youth-led climate movement is a prime example of agency in action. Young activists, such as Greta Thunberg, have been instrumental in raising awareness about environmental issues and demanding action from policymakers and corporations.
  2. Community Organising: Grassroots organisations working in marginalised communities exemplify agency by empowering residents to address local challenges. These groups mobilise community members to advocate for equitable access to resources, healthcare, education, and housing.
  3. Worker Cooperatives: In economically disadvantaged areas, worker cooperatives empower employees by giving them ownership and decision-making authority within their workplace. This fosters a sense of agency among workers, allowing them to control their economic destinies and work towards greater equity.


Agency in social justice is about recognising the inherent power and autonomy of individuals and groups to advocate for their rights and shape their destinies. By fostering empowerment, autonomy, and advocacy, we can create a more equitable and inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Embracing agency is essential in dismantling systemic injustices and building a more just and equitable world for all.

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