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Lobbying and question time

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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In any advocacy work, it is important to lobby the relevant decision-makers and use other advocacy techniques before deciding to start a public campaign, as well as during the campaign once it starts. Winning decision-makers’ support can make a campaign more effective – or even prompt the desired policy/institutional change without campaigning.


Practical tips for lobbying

  • Plan what is going to be said. Keep the message simple and to-the-point. Have a simple, clear-cut understanding of what is being asked of the decision-maker to do, i.e., vote for a specific bill.
  • If you lobby a member of parliament and you are a constituent, begin by stating that. Legislators are most responsive to the people who can keep them in office (or vote them out).
  •  Know your message. After identifying (and possibly writing down) what you want the decision-maker to do, think about a key point or personal story that supports your position.
  • Know your audience. If you do not know much about your interlocutor, research about him/her. Be sure to find out where s/he stands on the issue you're focusing on.
  • Personalize your comments. Connect your issue with the area or thematic field the decision-maker represents. Use precise examples.
  • Ask for a specific commitment. The best way to encourage your interlocutors to take specific action is to ask them directly. If they decline, encourage them to think about the issue, and let them know that you'll be in touch again.
  • Communicate more than once. Quantity is as important as quality in grassroots advocacy. One letter will not have much influence on a decision-maker. As you continue to monitor your issue, find various ways to communicate and ask for specific support or action as appropriate within the ongoing political process.

Source: adapted from Global AIDS Alliance, 2009.

Question time

“Question Time” in Parliament (or other forms of legislative assembly) describes sessions at which Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to Government members (such as Cabinet Ministers) which they are obliged to answer. It is a common practice in several parliamentary democracies and in the European Parliament. If it exists in your country and you know an MP who supports your cause, share your policy brief with him or her and propose specific questions she or he can raise at Question Time.


Advocacy and Lobbying Manual (Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2006).  This manual was developed for use in their advocacy and lobbying workshops and includes a step-by-step plan for engaging in advocacy work in any field. Available in English.

A Parliamentary Response to Violence against Women: Conference of Chairpersons and Members of Parliamentary Bodies Dealing with Gender Equality (Inter-Parliamentary Union Campaign; 2-4 December 2008, Geneva). Available in English.  See also the Campaign website in English and French.