1. Advocacy can be generally understood as the process of building support for an issue to create change in attitudes, behaviors, policies, systems, or ways of doing things. Many organizations use advocacy to build support for a given issue, intervention, or technology among key audiences and move them to action. Policy advocacy is a specific type of advocacy.
  2. Policy advocacy is the deliberate process of informing and influencing decision-makers in support of evidence-based policy change and policy implementation, including resource mobilization.
  3. Policy advocacy is a deliberate process that requires planning and strategy. It is not effective if done haphazardly.
  4. Policy advocacy aims to inform and influence decision-makers. Policy advocacy tries to influence those who have the formal power to make the change. Policy advocacy seeks changes that are evidence-based. You should have program experience or data to prove the issue is important and the suggested solution will help. The ultimate goal of policy advocacy is to achieve a desired policy change or ensure that an existing policy is implemented. It is not enough to just educate policymakers. You want to convince them to take action. Policy change and implementation can happen at a global, national, or sub-national level. It can even happen at an organizational or facility level if they are the institutional target of your advocacy efforts.
  5. Many of the terms for policies are used interchangeably within common themes (e.g., “plans, strategies, agendas, frameworks” and “protocols, guidelines, regulations”). Generally speaking, policies are those documents or statements issued by government or institutions that guide/inform/influence/fund/govern programs and people’s behavior.  Policy advocacy emphasizes changing written documents. Even if a declarative statement is made, it should ultimately be captured in writing, in the form of policy. This helps ensure a more lasting or permanent change.
  6. Developing a new policy will not help to address problems if decision-makers don’t follow through on their promises. Successful policy implementation often requires further action and accountability by decision-makers once a policy has been created. Accountability is often a two-way street. Citizens and civil society also have responsibilities within a given system, part of which is collecting and scrutinizing relevant information and using this information to hold duty-bearers to account for delivering on promises.
  7. In policy advocacy, the media, community members, religious leaders are not the final target audience. But outreach to these groups through community and social mobilization can be a strategic tactic to influence decisionmakers, who are the final target. Getting money from the government for your organization to implement a specific program or training is not policy advocacy. It is policy advocacy if your organization influences the government to improve or adopt a program or training. It is often more manageable to measure policy advocacy efforts by identifying whether the desired change has been made or action has been taken by target decision-makers.
  8. Most policy advocacy does not include lobbying. Policy advocacy is considered lobbying only if it involves outreach to legislatures/parliaments on specific legislation/laws and budget allocations. Many donors restrict lobbying with their funds.
  9. Before you jump into strategy development, you should do some preparation work to be sure you understand your policy “landscape.” Before you begin a strategy, it is helpful to: Research the political/policymaking process; Analyze the current policy environment, including which policies exist that guide your program’s interest and any existing gaps in both policies and policy implementation; Conduct stakeholder mapping. You should also conduct a needs assessment to understand the issues facing the population you hope to benefit.
  10. Any issue you select for policy advocacy should have these five elements: 1. It should be an existing objective or natural outgrowth of your organization or program’s work. Don’t advocate for an issue with which your organization has no experience. It limits your credibility. 2. It should be based in evidence. There needs to be proof that your issue is in fact a problem. 3. A change in policy or implementation of a policy should help to improve the problem. 4. It should be reasonably attainable in three to five years. That is the average length of a policy advocacy strategy. 5. It should be suitably specific and clear.
  11. There are many problems in this world. Policy advocacy is not always the best strategy to solve them. If a problem is better solved programmatically, it is not an ideal focus for a policy advocacy strategy
  12. There are many types of evidence. It may vary from global standards and best practices to community-identified needs. The stronger and more varied your evidence, the more effective your advocacy. The more specific and clear you make your issue, the better able you are to develop a concrete policy solution that will help improve the problem. A helpful way to make your issue suitably specific is to start with a very brief statement of the main problem you hope to address through policy advocacy. The root causes of the problem tend to become your issues for advocacy.
  13. There could be many valid issues to address, but some of them might be better than others. Having too many issues for advocacy can significantly dilute your efforts. It is important to prioritize.
  14. Many of the problems you might want to address won’t be feasible for a number of reasons. To help you select between issues, it can be helpful to rank them against specific criteria.
  15. The “how” within a policy advocacy goal refers to a specific policy change or an accountability action that can be made by a decision-making institution. It is important to remember that your advocacy goal should reflect what a decision-making institution can do to solve your advocacy issue. Remember, policy advocacy is working toward influencing someone else to take action. So your advocacy goal will not be an action you or your organization will take. When developing an advocacy goal, it is recommended you begin by developing your policy solution, essentially the “what” and “how” elements of your advocacy goal.
  16. The more specific your “how” the better. For example, if you want a decision-making institution to develop, amend, or repeal a policy, specify the name of the policy. Similar to your advocacy issue, the more specific your goal the greater clarity it will bring to your overall advocacy strategy. The “how” is an extremely critical component of your policy analysis. Too often, advocates approach decision-makers with problems they want addressed without recommendations as to how those problems can be effectively solved. Without a strong policy solution, your advocacy efforts can be easily undermined. There is usually more than one way “how” a problem might be addressed. Oftentimes, a change can be made through many different mechanisms or policies and by various institutions. Depending on shifts in the political environment, you may need to refine or change your “how” over time. For example, the original policy you may target to amend will not be updated for five years. How else might the change you want then be made? You  need to identify one way “how” for your policy advocacy goal. However, it is always a good idea to have other options in mind.
  17. Advocacy evidence can be categorized as primary or secondary and quantitative or qualitative. Primary evidence, sometimes referred to as original or primary data, is information you have gathered yourself for your specific research purposes. Secondary evidence, or secondary data, refers to the collection, summary, collation, or analysis of existing data and information. Also, consider if the evidence is qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative evidence may come from sources such as: census data, surveys, or numerical summaries of survey data. Qualitative evidence may come from sources such as: focus groups, interviews, or consultative workshops.
  18. In advocacy, validation of data through cross verification from two or more sources is critical. By combining multiple observers, theories, methods, and empirical materials, advocates can build a more robust and compelling case to decision-makers. It is of particular importance in advocacy to validate community-identified needs with empirical findings as well as the reverse. Too often, advocates tend to heavily rely on one over the other and their proposals for change can easily be discredited by decisionmakers. For example, if an organization is presenting its change agenda based primarily on focus groups and surveys aimed to gather community perceptions, they are often told they do not have enough supporting evidence. However, if they rely exclusively on more empirical data, they are often told they lack the local perspective and realities. If multiple sources or research methods lead to the same conclusion, you will have a stronger position to begin your advocacy
  19. If a committee or working group makes the final policy decision, it is important to identify the specific individual(s) who has the most sway in the group, sets the agenda of the group, or facilitates the meetings. There is often, although not always, a chain in decision-making. Although one person may ultimately make the final decision, there are often other decisionmakers who need to be persuaded along the way.
  20. The more direct influence or connections you have with your key decision-makers, the more chance you will have to persuade them. Don’t limit yourself only to connections you yourself might have. Consider what relationships might exist between the decision-makers and staff at your organization, members of your board, media contacts, colleagues, or key program partners. The more specific you can be when identifying decision-makers (e.g., identifying their title and name, as opposed to simply identifying parliamentarians), the more focused and thoughtful you can make your advocacy strategy.
  21. Even if you have direct access to decision-makers yourself or through your close connections, it can be useful to also reach them through the people they listen to most, those individuals or groups who have special access or influence.
  22. Always be as specific as possible. Saying “the general public” or “the media” is too broad. It is better to identify a specific journalist or single news outlet (such as one that reports on politics) or a community action group to whom the decision-maker pays close attention.
  23. You need to think about your issue from each of your decision-maker’s perspectives. The most effective advocacy strategies are designed to meet your decision-makers where they are, and move them toward your point of view. The focus of your outreach will vary depending on your decision-makers’ levels of awareness. For decision-makers who are unaware or uninformed, you will first want to share information on your issue. People need basic knowledge on an issue before they can even consider acting on it. For those who are aware and informed on your issue, you want to build their will to act. Your task often is to illustrate why a decision-maker should care about this issue.
  24. When determining the position of your decision-maker, think in terms of your specific goal instead of the broader issue. For example, your decision-maker might be a champion of your issue in general, but he or she might not yet have an opinion on your specific issue-related goal. Focus on those you can persuade—either those who are non-mobilized or low support. It might seem obvious, but too often advocates spend time responding to their opposition or persuading their champions who are already thoroughly convinced. Instead, you should target those who might be on the fence but would support your issue and/or become champions with a little thoughtful outreach. There is more potential for movement in the middle than at the extreme ends. Take the time to understand why someone is opposed to your issue or goal; if they are opposed or resistant because they are inaccurately informed, you may want to place them in the “non-mobilized” category, as there is a chance you could persuade them with correct information. However, if they are vehemently opposed, you will unlikely be able to persuade them. You may need to do more research to accurately understand a decision-maker’s true position. You can often discover this information through public voting records (if they are available), newspaper articles or other press coverage, and meeting and talking with colleagues or the decision-maker’s staff.
  25. As an advocate, you should tap into your decision-maker’s existing key interests in order to build a bridge to your ideas. This will help them see your issue as personally relevant
  26. People care more about an issue when it aligns with their key interests. Understanding what your decision-maker cares about most will help you design advocacy tactics and messages that are more persuasive and compelling. This is about their key interests, not yours. Don’t assume people will care about an issue for the same reasons you do. They may be motivated to act for very different reasons. If your decision-maker has multiple interests, choose the one you think will be the most motivating or compelling and could legitimately link to your issue and goal. If it seems like a stretch, rethink your choice.
  27. If your opponents have no influence, don’t worry about them. In general, you don’t want to engage opponents who strongly object to your position. You want to know their arguments in order to counter what they are saying when you communicate with decision-makers. But you don’t want to counter them directly.
  28. Your organization may be really strong in some areas but weak in others. Ideally, your advocacy strategy should be a natural extension of what you already know or do well. For example, if your organization does not have expertise in working with the media or any established connections with journalists, it may not be wise to pursue a media-related advocacy strategy.
  29. While advocacy is almost always more successful when done in collaboration with others, you should not partner with anyone and everyone. In addition to benefits, partnerships can come with risks or downsides. Be selective about your partners. Any potential partner should have something helpful to add to the effort and should not weaken your impact. The best partners usually bring resources to the advocacy effort, especially ones that fill gaps that may exist for your organization. They are also generally easy to work with. Your ideal partner should also be in alignment with your advocacy goal. However, if you require them to agree on all aspects of your strategy, you may greatly reduce the number and quality of partners. Sometimes you need to “agree to disagree” on certain aspects of an advocacy strategy. Strong partners usually bring few risks. Risks may impact your broader reputation or your potential to go off message. Risks should not immediately disqualify a partner, but be aware of them. Weigh their strengths against their weaknesses to determine whether the partnership is worth the risk.
  30. Coalitions have many advantages, including the fact that they can enlarge the base of support for an issue as well as give the issue more legitimacy with a mass of interest. Coalitions can often maximize resources by pooling them together and delegating work across the coalition. There are also disadvantages to working in coalitions to consider. It can often be hard to reach consensus in a coalition due to differing priorities and viewpoints. Sometimes you may not get credit for your hard work, while others get credit for no work. Power is not always equally distributed in coalitions. Many times, larger or wealthier organizations may have more say in decisions. Working in a coalition is not the only way to collaborate with other organizations. Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of working in a coalition before deciding to join or start one.
  31. Objectives are the short- to medium-term steps toward your overall goal. They should not be harder to accomplish than the goal! Think of objectives as actions your decision-makers, influencers, or key stakeholders might take to demonstrate their commitment to change. For example, your advocacy goal might be to pass a new piece of legislation in Parliament. Objectives toward that goal could include: a key Member of Parliament agrees to introduce the legislation; Parliament committee sponsors a hearing on the legislation. Objectives are the actions you want someone else to take. The actions YOU will take will be your advocacy activities
  32. Your advocacy message should be no more than five to eight sentences and take less than three minutes to deliver. Save any facts, figures, quotes, stories, and analysis that support your message for a follow-up discussion. Capture the interest of your decision-maker first. Target the “why you should care” part of the message to reflect the key interests of the particular decision-maker in front of you. Always conclude your advocacy message with a request for the decision-maker to take a very clear, specific action that will help advance your advocacy goal. Most policymakers won’t be likely to achieve your entire goal as a result of one meeting. So request an achievable intermediate step. Don’t forget to thank your decision-maker for their time. Always be respectful. Most times you will not be able to deliver your message without interruption. Remain on your message, do not become distracted, and be both concise and compelling
  33. Who delivers your message is just as important as what you choose to say. The right message delivered by the wrong messenger won’t be compelling. Messengers can be individuals, groups, or organizations. As with your message, your messenger may change depending on the decision-maker you are targeting and their key interests.
  34. Outputs and outcomes are answers to two different questions: Did we conduct the activity? (outputs) What effects did those activities have? (outcomes). Advocacy outcomes are often hard to measure. The advocacy process is complex, involves many players, and is quite dynamic. It can be particularly challenging to determine the role that your organization or your advocacy efforts had in influencing change, as it is hard to directly control policy change and policy implementation. For this reason, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you are hoping to achieve and some idea of how you will know you are making progress. It can be challenging to link outcomes to your specific advocacy activities since it often takes collective action and efforts to compel a decision-maker to take action. You won’t always know directly how your specific activity contributed to their action. It’s important to think in terms of contribution more so than attribution.

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