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Developing an advocacy strategy

Advocacy efforts must be both logical and flexible to achieve the desired result.  Engaging stakeholders and coalition members in early conversations about objectives and goals achieves buy-in for the advocacy effort, and assists the group in articulating those goals and objectives. Advocates should:

  • Clearly define objectives, demands, and target – who has the power to make the change;
  • Organize activities aimed at achieving the objectives and building toward the final goal; and
  • Plan the action and schedule for the effort recognizing that this plan may need to change after each step based on outcomes and feedback along the way.

Advocacy objectives should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

(See: Making Rights a Reality: Campaigning to Stop Violence Against Women, Amnesty International, 11-12, 2004)


Strategy Questions to Answer
Advocates should answer the following questions when the advocacy goal involves a new or amended law protecting women and girls from violence.  Understanding the legal obligations of the county will assist advocates in making arguments for legal reform.

  • Has the government signed any relevant international treaties? Are there any monitoring mechanisms in those treaties?
  • Are there any government policy statements (i.e. national plans) on the issue?
  • Are there any government bodies that monitor or are responsible for the issue?  If not, could there be?
  • Are any Members of Parliament interested in the issue?  Is there a sub-committee or committee in the legislature that is responsible for the issue?
  • Are there any government officials interested in the issue? Is there a government ministry or department responsible for the issue?
  • Have the political parties taken a position on the issue?
  • How can policy makers be accessed? Are there any formal mechanisms of access?  Are there any informal mechanisms of access?
  • What or who influences the government position on this issue, i.e. businesses, other countries, financial institutions?
  • Is the media influential on this issue? Which media is most influential? Are there particular journalists who cover this issue?  Will the media care about this issue?
  • How important is public opinion in the political process? Will working on this issue strengthen the role of the public in determining policy?
  • Are there particular individuals who could influence this issue, such as academics, retired government officials, religious or community leaders?

See: Legislative Advocacy Resource Guide: Promoting Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Global Rights, 11-12, 2005.

Articulate the Strategy to be Undertaken
Advocates should clearly articulate both the inside and outside strategies. The inside strategy is directed at those inside the legislature or parliament using arguments based on those who will either benefit or be opposed to the goal.  The outside strategy is directed at those outside of the legislature or parliament who may influence those within the legislative body.

  • Inside Strategy: Focuses on directly influencing decision makers
    • Who are the constituents?
      • Who will benefit when the goal is reached?
      • Why will these individuals benefit?
    • Who are the allies?
      • Who are the organized groups that will benefit?
      • What influence do they have that you don’t have?
      • Can the allies endorse the goal, offer financial support and/or get the message out?
    • Who are the opponents?
      • Who will be opposed to the goal?
      • Are there organized groups of opponents?
      • Why are they opposed?
      • What are their arguments?
  • Outside Strategy: Focuses on creating public awareness and mobilizing those outside the legislature that can influence decision makers
    • Who are the constituents?
    • Who are the allies?
    • Who are the opponents?

(See:  Women’s Human Rights Step by Step, Women, Law & Development International and Human Rights Watch, 1997)