Step 5: Deciding on your advocacy approach

Your analysis of the policy and political context in your country, plus your analysis of who has the power to bring about change and who has a stake in it, will all help determine what overall approach you take and therefore what advocacy activities you will undertake to achieve your objectives. The key question you need to address is: What approach is most likely to bring about the change we are seeking in our country – given the political context and the nature and behaviour of the institutions we are targeting? The following alternative approaches may help you decide what overall course of action to take – depending on your context:

  • Adversarial approach
    Campaign intended to shame your advocacy targets. Usually involves ‘outsider strategy’ and an emphasis on public campaigning and media work.

    Advantages: the targets of your advocacy may react in a hostile way but may still bend to public pressure or public exposure of their wrongs. Just because they react in a hostile way doesn’t mean they won’t change and move in the right direction!

    Disadvantages/risks:
    you may alienate your targets. You may not be invited to the negotiating table. In some countries, you may also experience a backlash from your targets, including harassment or attempts to silence you or close down your organisation.

  • Private approach/insider strategy
    Lobbying behind closed doors, constructive dialogue, emphasis on policy analysis. Usually involves an ‘insider’, collaborative approach.

    Advantages: you can increase influence with policy-makers because of the constructive relations you have built with them. You may become a trusted source of advice.

    Disadvantages/risks: possibility of co-option by policy-makers.

It may be possible to use a combination of the above approaches – with different organisations in your network taking different roles.

Alternatively, you could start with the private/insider approach and then switch to a more public/ adversarial approach if the insider approach isn’t working.

Once you have decided on your overall advocacy approach, you can start to plan the specific advocacy activities you will undertake. Tips on activities are covered in Chapter 4.

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