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2016-03-31 | Advocacy

In this topic students can learn about advocating people's rights for clean energy, sustainable development and related topics.

In simplest terms, grassroots advocates raise the level of awareness regarding certain causes and issues at either the local, state, or federal levels. The purpose of these efforts is so that you, the grassroots advocate, can influence public perception, regulations, or public policy such as legislation. Unlike "direct lobbying," grassroots advocacy relies almost entirely on the general public and not professional lobbyists to contact legislators and other government officials regarding specific issues.In the modern era, grassroots advocacy has become an increasingly popular way for companies and associations to harness the thoughts and ideas of their employees and members in order to create change within the public policy sphere of influence. Indeed, it has proven quite effective and it is not uncommon for these groups to mobilize hundreds of thousands, or even millions of members when issues arise.

What is advocacy?

Is a deliberate process of influencing those who make policy decisions (key words – influencing, deliberate, policy makers, policy decisions, empowering women and men). Advocacy is used to influence the choices and actions of those who make laws and regulations and those who distribute resources and make other decisions that affect the well-being of many people. It involves delivering messages that are intended to influence thoughts, perspectives and actions of leaders, politicians, policy makers, planners and others in authority.

Advocacy is essentially about policy change in three areas:

  • Creating policies where non exist;
  • Refining harmful or ineffective policies;
  • Ensuring good policies and followed, implemented and enforced;
  • Empowering and mobilizing a great public to reach the targets, like sustainable development, decentralized energy, etc.

Key elements of advocacy

Advocacy is all about changing attitudes, cultures, trends, traditions or bringing in new ways, new thinking and new styles of life. Advocacy therefore has much to do with influencing (through campaigning and lobbying) policy makers, communities, planners and politicians to respond to demands, needs and aspirations of ordinary people – the poor. It is geared towards making development responsive, people driven and pro-poor. Advocacy will largely depend on political environment, policy regime, socio-cultural context, capacity, expertise/skills and interests of actors, civic space and opportunities available.

Advocacy work will:

  • assist partners and local communities to have a deeper understanding of what policy analysis, networking and lobbying entail;
  • help partners and local leaders develop strategic capacities and new competencies as analysts, reform advocates, animators, catalysts and change agents;
  • train partners to develop tools and sharpen skills in social mobilization, political strategy and trend analysis;
  • equip partners with skills and capabilities in mobilizing voluntary energy to catalyze system and policy change, monitor policy formulation and implementation and engage effectively in networking and solidarity building;
  • influence policy change and get commitment to action from those in authority.

Policy advocacy

Policy is all about values, beliefs, perspectives, objectives, targets and underlying assumptions, which inform the framework for development facilitation. As groups engage in policy work, they develop operational definitions that eventually lead to more comprehensive explanations and understanding of the advocacy process.

Policy is a set of mandatory directions and or guidelines, which serve to regulate decisions mainly administrative and or managerial. These can be set at any level of an organization by person/people in a position of authority. It can also be seen as a plan or course of action or set of regulations adopted by government, business or any other institutions designed to influence and determine decisions or procedures.

Policy influencing is about:

  • Participating in policy planning;
  • Leveraging change through campaigns on an existing policy;
  • Helping in the interpretation of a policy;
  • Initiating a framework for a new policy;
  • Monitoring implementation of a policy;
  • Reviewing content, process, participation and structure of a policy;
  • Transforming policy priorities and actions;
  • Engaging in policy dialogue and participate a broad citizenship;
  • Building coalitions, partnerships and networks around policy.

Advocacy is about:

  • Politics, social change, values, beliefs, consciousness, knowledge, perspectives, demands and identity;

  • Influencing those in authority about problems which affect the people, especially, the socially excluded;

  • Building strong identities, coalitions, networks and or democratic organizations and social movements, which hold those in power accountable;

  • Enhancing citizens’ capacities, skills and perceptions to influence direction or course of policy processes.

Advocacy is a process of social transformation aimed at shaping the direction or course of public participation; public policies and programs to benefit the marginalized uphold human rights and safeguard the environment. Advocacy processes must remain pro-poor and reflect core values as equity, justice, mutual respect and accountability.

Stages and processes for advocacy

  • Building Identity: agreeing on objectives, core mandate, constituency, values and guiding principles. It is about formation of a committee, network, coalition, organization, alliance etc.
  • Mobilization & Mapping: of resources, actors, institutions, partners, targets and analysis of stakeholder environment including their positions. Analysis of stakeholder environment and risk assessment. Gathering policy and political information. What are the key political debates, who is who in the debate?
  • Developing a shared vision or common understanding: building strategic relationships, sensitization, education to change attitudes, create expectations and form perspectives.
  • Definition and elaboration of the policy problem: identification of policy theme, analysis of the policy environment, understanding the problem, taking positions or options. How does the policy affect you and the poor?
  • Identification of goals and objects: around which the activities will revolve, including self reflection/analysis of strengths and weaknesses – SWOT analysis.
  • Campaign strategy: rollout plan with campaigns and lobbying.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Set up a sustainable monitoring and evaluation framework.

Instruments and approaches in advocacy?

There are no standard strategies for advocacy work. The ultimate goal should be to open up political space for negotiations. Advocacy strategies are often classified into two main areas: campaigning and lobbying.


Campaigning Lobbying
Social mobilization, Awareness & sensitization Policy dialogue
Behind-the-scenes machinations Boardroom negotiations & trade-offs
Mass action e.g. demonstrations, boycotts, vigils, flash mobs, etc. Partnerships, Cooperation & collaboration
Public panels/forums Policy analysis and briefs
Boycotts & strikes Role models & good practice
Community & social mobilization Case studies
Research and information dissemination or sharing Leveraging change through resources by supporting processes
Media campaigns, public forums, civic education (trainings, films) Information packaging and policy drafting
  Education, training and persuasion
  Use of allies e.g. donors to leverage change
  Use of innovations and good examples

How to select a successful advocacy strategy:

  • Well defined policy goals.

  • Clear understanding of the problem or targeted policy by actors.

  • Who is in the coalition – donors, NGOs, CSOs, Government? – Partnerships and participation.

  • Skills and capacity, including resources, numbers, allies and partners.

  • Learning from previous adventures and experiences of others – honest analysis of past successes and failures.

  • Strategic direction and mandate, including constituency and frontiers, motivation and character.

  • Sustainability and scaling-up opportunities.

Basics on Advocacy


  • Who do you represent, your relationship with your partners?

  • Who speaks for whom on advocacy concerns and with what authority?

  • On whose behalf do you advocate or speak?

  • How are groups/communities involved in the process of deciding what issues to address?


  • Are you known and respected by government and other actors?

  • Independency and integrity?

  • Do you have reliable information?

  • What expertise, resources, contacts or profile do you have? How efficient and transparent are your systems?

  • Credibility means other actors trust and value what you have to say.


  • What mechanisms do you have to hold public institutions accountable for their actions?

  • What is the level of internal accountability to your members/constituencies?

  • What watchdog /vigilance capacities have you developed?

  • How transparent and accountable are your structures, the leadership of the campaign/coalition is accountable to whom, what feedback mechanisms do you have?


  • What resources do you have?

  • What is your active membership?

  • What alliances/linkages do you have with other coalitions, organizations and networks?

  • Who are your allies and partners, how prominent/influential are they?

  • What is the extent of your grassroots outreach? Media strategy?

  • Good information and analysis gives networks technical influence, while stronger constituencies lead to political influence, both of which lead social and public influence.


Civil society formations or social agencies working in the area of advocacy must form mechanisms to evaluate and monitor plans, programs, actions and policy decisions of governmental agencies, local authorities and service boards with a view to assessing their social and value-added impact and influence on their targets.

Building Networks, Coalitions, Alliances and Movements

To be effective in this area NGOs must reach out to form alliances and achieve some leverage in joining the ever shifting coalitions which are consistently redefining social issues, expanding constituencies, promoting constructive engagement, enhancing mutual learning and finally engaging in political action for social change. This forms the basis for policy advocacy for politically conscious, but voluntary and people-driven organizations, which strengthen the direct participation of citizens in both local and national decision making processes.

Communication & information flow

What information and communication system exists between your leadership and your constituency, how do you gather, manage and process information, how do you generate issues from members and do you make sure that your allies and partners are informed and involved in all campaigns and activities?

Expected outcomes in policy advocacy:

A good, sustainable and successful advocacy work should lead to an institutionalized variety of mechanisms to ensure that:

  • Policies are set with and through involvement and participation of the public.

  • Implementation of policies is done with community participation and public oversight.

  • Structures which democratically represent community interests are established.

  • Communities and women and men are enabled and positioned to demand accountability.

  • Change attitudes and create expectations.

  • Build systems, identify clear goals, have a plan of action, build a strong case for change and a vibrant constituency.


Related materials




Best advocacy practices from project countries (file is constantly updated) you will find.


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