Section 03: Identifying your advocacy goal

3.1: What is the long-term goal which your advocacy will contribute to?

Your long-term goal is your vision of the long-term change you want to see. It is what gives your advocacy its real sense of purpose and legitimacy. It is what motivates you to keep going, even when progress is very slow or when things feel like they are going in the wrong direction.
Examples of long-term goals:
  • Climate change: Global temperature rises kept below 1.5 degrees
  • Education: All children have access to education from 5 – 18 years old
  • Agriculture: Rural communities have secure livelihoods
  • Gender equality: Women and men have equal employment opportunities, conditions and pay
It is important to keep the long-term goal in your vision. But it is unlikely that your advocacy strategy alone will secure this goal. Multiple changes may need to happen in order for the long-term goal to be realized, and your organisation or coalition can’t advocate for all of them. So you need to decide which change your advocacy will focus on as a contribution to the long-term goal – your advocacy goal, in other words. This module will help you identify your advocacy goal.

3.2: Systems thinking tool to help identify the advocacy goal

You can complete this exercise with pen & paper & post-its or a whiteboard or online tools such as Mural, Miro, Google jamboards or Mindmeister. You can also use Word or Powerpoint. Your choice!
  1. 1.
    Write your long-term goal in the middle of your page/virtual canvas
  2. 2.
    Around the long-term goal, write down all the changes that need to happen for the long-term goal to be realized
  3. 3.
    Start with the bigger changes and then work outwards to the smaller changes
  4. 4.
    Insert arrows to indicate any connections between the changes. This may help you identify the really critical changes that will unlock lots of other changes
  5. 5.
    You have now produced what is known as a `systems thinking’ map – showing the whole system of changes needed and the connections between them
  6. 6.
    Discuss with your colleagues, partners (and ideally those directly affected by the issue) which change your advocacy will focus on. This will depend on a range of factors (see 3.3 below for common factors influencing your decision).
  7. 7.
    Insert a star or asterisk in your map next to the change which your organisation/coalition will seek to secure through advocacy
  8. 8.
    Articulate your advocacy goal as though the change you seek has been secured. One way of doing this is to imagine what the newspaper headline would read if your advocacy goal had been achieved.
​Here you can find an activity guide to draw your own systems thinking map.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Example of a system thinking map. In the centre of a page, a green sticky note with the words "LONG-TERM GOAL: communities are compensated for the loss and damage caused by climate change". Around it, four yellow notes and eight pink notes detail the changes (bigger and smaller, respectively) that need to take place for the goal to be achieved. Arrows show links between the changes. Three changes are marked with a red asterisk to indicate the changes that will be sought: "Loss & damage fund created within existing Green Climate Fund" and "UK and Egyptian governments put an international L&D fund on the agenda of COP27 climate talks" on pink notes, and finally "An international fund created for climate-related loss and damage" (Yellow note i.e. major change).
You may decide to select more than one advocacy goal – for example, when several changes you seek are connected in some way. But more than 3 advocacy goals is not recommended. The more focused your advocacy strategy, the more successful it is likely to be.

3.3: Common factors to consider when deciding which change to try secure through advocacy

Relative importance of the change - choose an advocacy goal which:
  • Is a `root’ change which will unlock other changes (or block other changes if not pursued)
  • Is important to those affected by the issue and to your organisation’s mission and stakeholders
External context - choose an advocacy goal on which:
  • There are upcoming opportunities to achieve this goal
  • The risks involved in seeking this goal are manageable
  • Your advocacy will either complement or strengthen the advocacy of others
Capacity and expertise – choose an advocacy goal which:
  • Fits your expertise, experience or analysis
  • You know quite a lot about: what it is you want to change, why it should change, and how it should change.
  • Allows you to integrate advocacy work with other work done by your organisation (eg. work on the ground with communities).
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: three people reflect about change. "Which change should we go for?", "Do we have the capacity for it?", "What about others?". There are many other possible changes that they could seek.

3.4: Examples of advocacy goals

Long term goals
Advocacy goals
Climate change: Global temperature rises kept below 1.5 degrees
X big banks stop financing coal, oil and gas
Education: All children have access to education from 5 – 18 years old
The government removes all school fees
Agriculture: Rural communities have secure livelihoods
Farmers secure access to interest-free loans
Gender equality: Women and men have equal employment opportunities, conditions and pay
Women secure the statutory right to paid maternity leave