Group activities

Exercise 1: Drafting policy recommendations

Aims: To practise drafting effective policy recommendations and to practise written communication of a message to someone you are trying to influence.

Step 1: The facilitator explains to participants that they are going to practise formulating policy recommendations. Ask participants to read a short tax research paper or pick a tax issue that they have worked on – or they can use one of the case studies in the toolkit to work from.

Step 2: The facilitator asks participants to use the guidance provided in ‘Top tips for formulating policy recommendations’ (see page 6) to draft two or three policy recommendations and prioritise them.

Step 3: Participants read the ‘Top tips for formulating policy recommendations’.

Step 4: Participants draft two or three policy recommendations. Ask participants to write each recommendation on a different ‘post-it’ note.

Step 5: Ask each participant to share their recommendations in pairs with their neighbour. In their pairs, suggest that participants give each other feedback on their recommendations – based on the ‘Top tips for formulating policy recommendations’ guidance.

Step 6: Participants then stick all their recommendations on a big flip chart. The facilitator then chooses three or four recommendations and reads them out.

Exercise 2: Delivering our key messages verbally – the elevator exercise24

Aim: To practise verbally communicating a message to someone you are trying to influence.

Step 1: The facilitator explains the following scenario to participants.

The scenario:
Choose a tax issue. Imagine you are on the ground floor of a very tall skyscraper. As you step into the elevator to travel to the top floor, by chance somebody you really want to lobby about your tax issue walks into the elevator. It turns out that you are both going to the top floor of the building – 90 floors up!

You have two minutes to communicate your message – that is the time it takes for the lift to travel from the ground floor up to the 90th floor.

Step 2: The facilitator instructs each participant to prepare their message as follows (10 minutes):

  • What my organisation wants to achieve
  • Why we want to achieve it
  • How we propose to achieve it
  • What action we want taken by you (the target audience).

Step 3: The facilitator divides participants into groups of four. In each group, participants have
to practise communicating their message to each other.

One person communicates the message and the other person pretends to be the influential person.

Then they swap over.

Then they swap over with another pair in their group.

Then that pair swaps over too.

And so on… .

By the end each person should have communicated their message twice.

Step 4: Still in groups, the facilitator randomly selects two or three people to tell the group what message they received from another person the facilitator points to in their group:

‘Person A, please tell me what you can remember of person B’s message.’

Step 5: Debrief session in plenary where participants share what was learnt from this exercise about communicating a message to busy policy-makers.

Exercise 3: Lobbying role-play

Aim: To practise the skills required for being an effective lobbyist.

Includes two groups with separate instructions for each:

  • Group 1 are civil society representatives attending a ‘lobby meeting’.
  • Group 2 are government ministers and officials whom the CSOs are going to lobby.

(Two observers will share thoughts on how effective the role-playing was at the end.)

Step 1: The facilitator creates two groups of three. Give each group separate instructions (see overleaf) on the issue of a luxury tax (VAT) on sanitary pads and ask them to divide the roles between them.

Step 2: The lobbyists read their handout. They will lobby on changes spelled out in the briefing. Their task is to organise a pre-meeting and then visit the ministers to lobby them for specific changes.

Step 3: The targets read their handout so they are familiar with the issue and likely arguments from the group ofrepresentatives. They need to raise arguments against the reforms asked for by the representatives.

Step 4: Each group holds a separate pre-meeting to prepare. Allocate about 20 minutes for the pre-meeting.

Step 5: Lobby meeting held. Allow 15–20 minutes for the actual lobbying discussion. The two observers evaluate the exercise using the checklist in ‘Top tips for successful lobbying’ on page 8.

Step 6: Discussion in plenary to share learning – ‘what worked’ and ‘what could have been improved on?’. How realistic was the case study for their country?

Instructions for Group 1:

You are all NGO representatives from the Coalition for the Protection of Women and Children (CPWC) in the country of Imaginaria.

Research has been done by a well-respected child rights body on school attendance by girls. On conclusion of the research it was found that girls from poor backgrounds were missing days at school because they could not afford sanitary towels. The CPWC has therefore started a campaign to get the sanitary towels zero rated for tax purposes. If you achieve this, women and girls would no longer have to pay VAT on sanitary pads. Some of you believe it would be better still if you can have sanitary towels removed from the VAT list of goods altogether so they cannot be taxed in the future. The campaign plans to get direct support and participation from government, create public awareness of the problem and influence the policy-making process.

The study has received a lot of media interest in the national newspapers, radio, and so on. You think this is why you have finally been granted a meeting with the minister of health, the minister of finance and the revenue authority (independent from the ministry of finance).

The lobbyists:

  1. The Coalition for the Protection of Women and Children (CPWC) – a national coalition of grass-roots organisations.
    Goal:
    To have sanitary pads removed from the VAT list. They are not happy with a compromise of zero rating.Position:
    Radical, and strategically they do not want to compromise.
  2. Education-All– a big international NGO from the US, with an office in Imaginaria.Goal:
    Zero rating is good enough. They are happy with that.Position:
    Good relations with ministry of health; target at ministry of health used to work for Education-All.
  3. Tax specialist of Taxpayers’ Association
    Goal:
    To give tax advice and broaden the discussion on tax to include more than sanitary pads.Position:
    Wants to have a lot of publicity to create awareness for tax.

The lobbyists’ task

Decide who will play which roles.

Decide how you will handle the meeting:

  • Which issues will you prioritise?  Will you raise all your points or only some of them?
  • What are your desired outcomes?
    • ideal
    • compromise
    • unacceptable
  • Who will talk about what?  What is your strategy for handling the meeting among you bearing in mind the roles allotted to you?
  • What arguments do you expect the government representatives to use?
  • How can you persuade the government that it is in their interest to adopt the measures you are proposing? What is coming up on their agendas that might give them an opportunity to engage with this issue?
  • How will you persuade them of your case?
  • Is there any information you want to get from the government in this meeting?

NB:  You can use pretend/fake materials and information to support your case!

Instructions for Group 2:

You are a group of government ministers and senior officials in the country of Imaginaria.

Research has been done by a well-respected child rights body on school attendance by girls. On conclusion of the research it was found that girls from poor backgrounds were missing days at school because they could not afford sanitary towels. The Coalition for the Protection of Women and Children (CPWC) has therefore started a campaign to get the sanitary towels zero rated for tax purposes. If they achieve this, women and girls would no longer have to pay VAT on sanitary pads. Some of the members believe that it would be better still if they can have sanitary towels removed from the VAT list of goods altogether so they cannot be taxed in the future. The campaign clearly plans to create public awareness of the problem and influence the policy-making process. You were initially approached with a request for a meeting by the CPWC and the Taxpayers’ Association. You refused to meet with them claiming that diary commitments prevented it. They have now generated significant media attention on why girls do not have access to sanitary pads. As a result of this, you have felt under pressure to meet with them. However, you have also invited a large US NGO, Education-All, to attend the meeting as you think they may be more conciliatory. The government’s objectives for the meeting are:

  • to prevent negative publicity being generated by the CPWC and therefore try to neutralise their opposition
  • to ensure that VAT on sanitary pads remains intact (though the minister for women is passively supportive of the civil society coalition). If VAT is removed from sanitary pads, it could set a precedent for civil society to push for the removal of VAT on lots of other essential items, which would have implications for tax revenues.

The targets:

  1. Minister of finance – a male economist.
    Position:

    • Negative view on the issue
    • Really does not want to reduce revenues but ‘willing to negotiate’
    • Very bad relationship with Taxpayers’ Association
    • Heavily influenced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. It is a condition of receiving loans from both that you increase tax revenue from individual taxation (indirect tax)
    • Needs to achieve millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015
    • President insists that the ministry of finance must increase its tax effort
    • Does not want to be here, but he is invited by the ministry of health person
    • Two years away from retirement, underpaid, little motivation
  2. Minister of health – a female former doctor who used to work for Education-All.
    Position:

    • Passively supportive
    • Embarrassed that a women’s rights organisation knows about this problem of girls having no access to sanitary pads and that the ministry of health does not; feels like a failure
    • Therefore she doesn’t want the issue to have lots of publicity
    • The lobbyists had a meeting with her before, and she arranged the meeting with the revenue authority and the ministry of finance
  3. Revenue authority (independent from the ministry of finance), whose role is to sort out technical aspects – a former IMF economist.

    Position:

    • Claims not to have an opinion
    • Only there to give technical advice, not a decision-maker
    • But sceptical because it will be a big administrative effort
    • He thinks it is important that VAT is non-discriminatory. He is also worried that removing VAT from sanitary towels could set a precedent for the removal of other items from the VAT list
    • Young, ambitious

The targets’ task

Decide who will play which roles.

Decide how you will handle the meeting:

  • Who will talk about what?
  • What are your desired outcomes (both in terms of position of the lobbyists and other targets)?
    • ideal
    • compromise
    • unacceptable
  • What overall approach will you take towards the lobbyists? Very attentive and conciliatory? Or dismissive? Will you try to undermine the CPWC’s position and question their study? Or will you acknowledge its importance?
  • What arguments do you expect the CSOs to make?
  • How can you persuade them that it is in their interests to work with the government on this issue rather than simply criticising the government?
  • Is there any information you want to get from the CSOs in this meeting?

NB:  You can use pretend/fake materials and information to support your case!

Exercise 4: Giving a radio interview

Aim: To practise techniques for giving an effective radio interview.

Step 1: The facilitator hands out a very short summary of a tax report or tax issue to participants and asks them to prepare to be interviewed.

Step 2: The facilitator prepares some questions based on the handout (the facilitator will conduct the interview).

Step 3: Participants do their preparation using the guidance on in ‘Top tips for a radio interview’ on page 18.

Step 4: The facilitator conducts the interview. Other participants watch and take notes on what was effective and what could be improved.

Step 5: The facilitator and participants give constructive feedback that will enable the interviewee and others present to learn from the experience.

Exercise 5: Developing a campaign slogan

Aim: To reflect on how to popularise the tax issue for a public audience and generate popular action.

Step 1: The facilitator asks participants to brainstorm on catchy campaign slogans from other campaigns (either in plenary or in small groups).

Step 2: The facilitator asks participants what they like about these slogans. Questions to pose: Is the slogan a call to action? Will it encourage ordinary members of the public to do something? Is it easily understood? Will it appeal to a broad range of citizens? Is it an inclusive slogan? Is it an aggressive slogan and if so, is this appropriate? Is it a slogan that will encourage those with power to engage with it? Or is the slogan intended to stir up passion and anger among the public?

Step 3: The facilitator divides participants into small groups and gives each group a different aspect of the tax issue, as identified in previous exercises (for example, ending tax secrecy; a more equitable tax system). Each group will try to devise a campaign slogan on their issue and put the slogan on a flip chart sheet so that it becomes a poster. With different coloured pens, the groups could get creative about the presentation of their slogan if they so wish.

Step 4: Put the posters on the wall. Participants can then do a gallery walk to look at the posters during a coffee break.

Step 5: The facilitator could close the session with a brief plenary discussion of the posters.

Chapter 4: Getting active on tax

By now you should:

  • be confident in your advocacy skills, having examined:
    • the key components of a policy position and how to develop effective policy recommendations
    • ways of communicating with your target audiences in writing and verbally
    • how to be an effective lobbyist
    • how to work with the media to achieve your advocacy aims
    • techniques for effective campaigning
    • how to engage with corporates on tax
  • have identified various activities you could use to further your tax advocacy objectives.