What Type of Advocacy?


Types of Advocacy

There are many different types of advocacy work. These should be carefully considered to ensure that the approach adopted is appropriate to your organisation’s ‘ways of working’, the national strategy and country situation, and the aims of the advocacy campaign. There various ways in which to categorize types of advocacy including:

Advocacy can take place at any level – in a particular village, community, district, country, region or globally.

An advocacy campaign could be ongoing or time-limited (e.g. a specific event or action).

Advocacy can cover a single-issue, or range of issues. In general it is easier to achieve success if you have some specific and focused objectives.

Approach to Issue
Approaches can vary from abolition to reform. Abolition is when advocacy centers around stopping an unpopular policy, whereas reform is where it seeks incremental change. Abolition is likely to be more confrontational (and publicly critical of the existing ideology), whereas reform is usually viewed as more co-operative and/or practical.

Advocacy can be directed at a number of targets: government, businesses, groups of people or individuals.

Approach to advocacy targets
This can vary from conflict to engagement. Conflict or ‘adversarial advocacy’ is often associated with ardent abolition or protest movements who document the failures of government or policy makers, criticize them ('mobilizing shame'), and thereby effect change. ‘Programmatic engagement’ is more commonly undertaken by organisations that work with government to deliver services. It involves constructive discussion of policies to effect internal reform and capacity building within existing systems.

Channels or methods used
The channels or methods used can range from direct advocacy (direct dealings with policy makers) to grassroots lobbying (mobilizing the public to make representations to policy makers), and include other intermediate approaches such as the use of networks and coalitions.

Different Approaches to Advocacy

Advocacy that is aimed at changing the policies and practices of institutions has been categorized under the following four approaches:

  • Collaborative - working with the policy maker to jointly identify an appropriate solution to a particular problem.
  • Rational - persuading the policy maker to change their policies through presenting a rational argument, based on evidence and analysis.
  • Political - getting the policy maker to change their policies by building support for your case among other groups who have influence on the policy maker, sometimes including public pressure.
  • Judicial - forcing the institution to change its policy or practice by using the legal process to get a judgment of the courts.

A collaborative approach can be very effective if the policy-maker is open to change.

The rational approach can work if policies are made on a rational basis (rather than from political or self-interest motives). However, even when this is not the case, the rational approach is often an essential foundation for other approaches.

The political approach recognizes the different forces acting on policy decisions, and tries to build its own agenda into these forces.

The judicial approach can work when the judicial system is fair and independent, and has the authority and power to enforce its judgments. However, it is confrontational and can be slow, expensive and demand specialist skills.

Effective Advocacy

Advocacy is both a science and an art. From a scientific perspective, there is no universal formula for effective advocacy. However, experience shows that advocacy is most effective when it is well-researched and strategically planned. Successful advocacy networks frame their issue, research the policy environment and audience, set an advocacy aim and measurable objectives, identify sources of support and opposition, develop compelling messages, mobilize necessary funds, and collect data and monitor their plan of action at each step along the way.

Advocacy is also an art. Successful advocates develop a ‘sixth sense’ about opportunities, timing, and people – and harness their knowledge in support of the campaign. This comes with experience, and from paying attention to these aspects.

The 'art' of successful advocacy involves:

  • Seeking, recognizing and using opportunities.
  • Developing a keen sense of timing.
  • Developing an understanding of the people involved in the process - there positions and power bases, and their views and motivations
  • Framing and articulating issues in ways that inspire targets and motivate them to take action.
  • Becoming a skilled negotiator and consensus builder.
  • Looking for opportunities to win modest but strategic policy gains while creating still other opportunities for larger victories
  • Developing interpersonal skills.
  • Learning how to incorporate creativity, style, and even humor into advocacy (in order to draw attention and support to the cause).

The recipe for successful advocacy will differ from country-to-country – depending on the culture and political environment. In some countries the development of personal contacts is vital. However, this does not negate the need for thorough research and an effective strategy.