Section 02: How to develop an advocacy strategy – an overview

2.1: Why develop an advocacy strategy?

The pathway to securing change through advocacy may not be very clear - mainly because you don’t have control over those you are seeking to influence or the political processes in which they operate. So it’s good to develop a strategy that can act as a kind of `road map’. The development of a strategy will also help ensure that members of your coalition or organisation and those affected by the issue are following the same map!
Sometimes advocates waste time reacting to political events that may be only tangentially connected to the change they are trying to secure. The development of a strategy will help ensure that those involved are proactive and strategic, rather than just reactive.
The process of developing an advocacy strategy can also help you to:
  • Build a broader base of support by engaging a range of stakeholders in developing the strategy – including those affected by the issue
  • Systematically analyse the context in which you will be advocating. In turn, this analysis will help you identify who you need to influence and the most effective tactics and activities for influencing them
  • Monitor your advocacy. Developing a strategy will help you identify a) the short-term, medium-term and longer outcomes you will seek to secure (as the ultimate change you seek may take a long time); and b) the indicators – ie the evidence you will collect to demonstrate progress in securing the outcomes you seek
​This handout describes ten steps to developing an advocacy strategy.

2.2: Who to involve in the development of the strategy

Advocacy can be carried out by:
  • The people affected by an issue or problem
  • Other people representing them
  • Both groups together
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: "Who to involve", drawing of a group of people sitting together, presumably at a meeting.
Advocacy is more powerful if those affected by the issue are involved in some way. If possible, make sure they are involved in defining the problem and the solutions and developing the strategy. If you are advocating on behalf of those affected by a given issue, you must ensure you represent their opinions and interests fairly. This means having a close relationship with them and permission from them to advocate on their behalf.
Why it is important to involve those directly affected by the advocacy issue, from early on in the planning process:
  • They will have expert knowledge of the issue or problem
  • They can suggest workable solutions based on direct experience of the problem
  • They are often highly motivated, because they are directly affected by the issue
  • Affected individuals and groups will gain more skills and confidence – so the process of developing an advocacy strategy and then doing advocacy can be a way of starting to shift power to these groups that have been disempowered.

2.3: Ten steps in the development of an advocacy strategy

  1. 1.
    Analyse and research the problem you want to address so that you are clear about the root causes of the problem and the blockages to change.
  2. 2.
    Have a vision of the long-term change you want to see - the long-term goal. It is not something which your advocacy alone will achieve. But it is the ultimate reason for why you are doing the advocacy.
  3. 3.
    Analyse all of the changes needed to secure the long-term goal and linkages between these changes.
  4. 4.
    Select which of these change(s) you will seek to secure through advocacy. This is your advocacy goal.
  5. 5.
    Analyse the external context in which you will advocate – ie people, power, policies, politics. Analyse upcoming opportunities and threats too
  6. 6.
    Analyse the internal context within your organisation or coalition – eg. advocacy capacity, expertise on the issue etc.
  7. 7.
    Identify your overall approach and tactics (based on your analysis of the internal and external context).
  8. 8.
    Identify the sequence of actions and outcomes you will seek on the way to achieving the advocacy goal(s) – essentially your advocacy roadmap. Set indicators to help you measure your progress in securing the outcomes.
  9. 9.
    Develop your key advocacy messages and your `asks’ of those you are seeking to influence – eg. policy recommendations.
  10. 10.
    Monitor (regularly) your advocacy strategy. You may need to amend the strategy as the context (inevitably) changes and depending on the outcomes you are observing. Remember advocacy is about influence – not control! For reasons beyond your control, your strategy will probably have to adapted.