Section 04: Analysing the context - people, power, policies, politics

4.1: Analysing the external context for your advocacy

An analysis of the external context will help you identify:

  • The external opportunities and threats in relation to your advocacy issue – especially in the political sphere

  • Targets of your advocacy - ie those with the power to bring about the change you are seeking - those you will seek to influence

  • Potential allies who may help you bring about the change you are seeking Potential opponents who you may need to confront, neutralise or convert to your cause if you are to succeed

  • The relevant policy channels and processes you will need to influence

  • What advocacy tools are most likely to influence those with the power to bring about the change you seek (ie private lobbying? Or public campaigning and media work? Or a combination of these?)

  • Features of the political culture which may affect your tactics (eg. laws governing what NGOs can and can’t do or the right to protest; politicians’ attitudes to NGOs etc) and the level of political will to effect the change you seek

For your advocacy to be successful, you will need to constantly monitor and analyse the external context and the impact of your advocacy activities within that context – not just when first drawing up your strategy. This is because advocacy hinges on influencing powerful actors outside your organisation to take action.

4.2: Power & stakeholder mapping

Brainstorm all of the different actors that have some kind of power or stake/interest in your advocacy goal (either positively or negatively). Write their names on sticky notes, then position the notes on the chart, based on their relative power (vertical axis) and support/opposition of the actor with regard to the advocacy goal (horizontal axis).

Now, draw arrows between the different notes to indicate the chains of influence – i.e. who influences who (as you may not get direct access to the most powerful actor and may have to resort to influencing those who influence him/her). Your final map may look like the one on the bottom right (courtesy of Anup Raj Pokhrel, CARE Nepal, former participant on an INTRAC Advocacy Strategy and Influencing Skills training course).

4.2.1: Questions to address when analysing your power & stakeholder map

  • Who do you think your advocacy strategy should particularly seek to influence? I.e. who will be your prime targets?

  • What will be your strategy towards your opponents? Will you seek to influence them? Or seek to isolate them? Or ignore them?

  • Which actors do you need to build alliances with and why?

  • How could you increase the power of allies who don’t have much power?

What your power and stakeholder analysis might mean for your strategy

4.3: Political triangle – to help you analyse politics and policies relevant to your advocacy goal

We have the means and the capacity to deal with our problems, if only we can find the political will. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary- General

Use the three `points’ of the triangle as a framework or checklist for analysing a) the policies, b) the policy processes relevant to your issue, and c) the underlying political culture:

Political culture and political will: You need to understand the policies that are relevant to your issue and the processes for changing them. But policies usually only change when enough political will has been generated to change them, as this triangle indicates. Start by analysing how much political will already exists. This includes analysing the political culture – i.e. policymakers’ attitudes, interests, behaviours and values. Then tailor your advocacy message to address these interests and attitudes in order to generate political will for the change you seek.

4.4: Analysing the internal context for your advocacy

Advocacy seeks change in the external context - well beyond the changes resulting from the services that an NGO might provide in a single community, for example. So advocacy tends to be more externally focused than other activities. But the internal context inside your organisation will also affect your advocacy strategy and therefore needs analysing. Questions to address when developing an advocacy strategy:

  • Do the communities we work with support our proposals to undertake advocacy on this issue?

  • Does senior management support our intention to undertake advocacy on this issue? Do they understand the purpose and objectives of it? Are senior managers aware of the potential risks involved?

  • What skills, expertise and experience do a)our staff; b)our partners; and c)the communities we work with, currently have to engage in advocacy on this issue? Do we need to build their capacity?

  • Do we have sufficient human capacity and financial resources to undertake advocacy on this issue? Will the advocacy need to be combined with other work and responsibilities? And if so, how?

  • Are there particular methodologies and approaches promoted by my organisation that will affect our approach to advocacy? (eg. emphasis on participatory approaches involving children; emphasis on partnership)

  • Does my organisation’s mission, mandate and organisational culture limit the kinds of advocacy activities we can engage in?

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