With the main parts of your strategic analysis complete, the next phase of advocacy strategic planning is around making key choices. As the ‘Vision of a Better World for Animals’ diagram above (Page 5) shows, the analysis will now provide you with the information necessary to make the following important decisions:
- The organizational niche
- The strategic aim, objectives, indicators, and key ‘asks’
- How and when you will achieve your strategy – the Action Plan (Including activities, budget and monitoring and evaluation)
These are covered in more detail below.
Understanding an organization’s niche (comparative advantage compared to other players) will help you choose the advocacy issue and approach in which the organization will have the best chance of being successful without duplicating the work of other organizations. You will need to know internal information like organizational strengths and weaknesses, areas of expertise, capacity and resources, plus external information like numbers and effectiveness of organizations conducting advocacy on this subject already; and what your organization has to offer that others do not.
An important part of the organizational niche is identifying what type of advocacy approach will be most appropriate. This will take into account the principles of the organization and established ways of working, and the approaches already being undertaken by other organizations.
You need to assess what approach will contribute to the advocacy objectives without negatively impacting on the reputation or other functions of the organization.
These five words are the bones of your strategy. They form a logical chain from the grand aim to the day-to-day tasks. All analysis feeds into deciding what they are and they are ultimately what you will use to decide whether your advocacy strategy has been successful or not. Your ‘Key Asks’ are also of major importance, and are building blocks to the achievement of your objectives.
The Aim, Objectives, Outcomes, and Activities are essentially the different levels of your work. If you use different words in your organization (and especially if you receive funding, and have to report to a donor from a different country), try to be flexible. The most important thing is to have a clear understanding of the concepts - what means what, in your organization at that time.
Overall Aim (Or Goal)
The overall aim (often called a ‘goal’) is the ultimate, long-term improvement you want to see from your advocacy work. The achievement of an aim is dependent on many factors, of which your organization’s work is only one. The aim should be long-term (often two - four years) and general enough to capture the vision of the campaign but focused enough to develop an effective strategy. The aim should:
- Be easily understandable and communicated
- Inspire people to take action
- Help build alliances and coalitions
Objectives describe the intended changes that you want to see in the shorter term (one to three years). An advocacy objective will be to change the policies or positions of government or institutions. The changes are specific, and contribute to meeting the general Aim. When you write possible objectives, you are searching for the most effective ways of reaching your aim. There will always be a choice of objectives that need to be evaluated before final decisions on strategy are taken.
Objectives should be clear, concise and measurable. They can be understood as the critical success criteria – what your organization must get right in order to succeed in its advocacy campaign. It should be possible to measure progress against an advocacy objective.
Tools to clarify your objectives:
How many objectives?
Focus is a key determinant of success of an advocacy campaign. You are better off with fewer objectives rather than more. Two or three clear objectives generally suffice.
Are your objectives SMART?
Your objectives should aim to be SMART, which means:
- Specific – for example, in stating precisely what will be done
- Measurable - for example, to allow program learning and review
- Achievable – for example, in relation to your potential capacity and experience
- Relevant – for example, for your vision, mission and aim
- Time-bound – for example, in relation to when the work will be done
In the real world it may be difficult to achieve making your objectives wholly SMART. However the exercise of trying to make your objectives SMART will always improve them.
Strategic analysis should develop naturally into ideas about different strategic approaches. There will always be a choice of objectives that need to be evaluated before final decisions on strategy are taken.
Finally, you need to evaluate your options in order to decide on your strategy. Your evaluation should be based on factors that are important to your issue and organization. Some key success factors are dealt with below – in ‘Advocacy Success’.
You may also take into account factors such as the ability of the strategy to provide leverage and/or ‘multiplier effects’. A skillfully developed strategy can bring about far-reaching change – for example, by providing a working example that can be replicated.
You will also need to consider focus and prioritization in order to develop a stepwise campaign. Focus is a key determinant of success of an advocacy campaign.
Tools to clarify your objectives:
Outcomes are the tangible changes that result from a set of activities, and contribute to the achievement of an objective. They may be changes in behavior of people or organizations/partners as well as policy changes.
Once you have decided upon specific objectives and outcomes, you need to set indicators against which to measure progress. Indicators are pieces of evidence that show how far an objective or outcome has been achieved.
Activities (or actions) are the detail of what needs to be done to achieve a planned outcome.
An Illustration: A Journey Around the World
The aim is to travel around the world in 3 years, seeing as much of the world as your budget allows.
Once you have set your Aim, Objectives Outcomes and Indicators you will want to think about timing and who will do what. Common activities include joining networks, forming coalitions, arranging lobby meetings, seminars and conferences, doing policy briefings, research, setting up exposure visits, making targeted use of messages; media work; campaigning events such as supporter actions or demonstrations etc.
These activities are described in more detail in future modules. Some will be more appropriate for your organization and issue, and others less so.
Making an approximate budget will force you to be realistic about what you can attempt. Some advocacy can be carried out without spending much money. Assess how much (if any) funds you have for the advocacy. If you have very little, you will have to rely on volunteer input for many of the tasks, and will probably be more interested in working jointly with other NGOs. If you do have some funding for the work, you will be more able to hold some public events, or print publications, to strengthen your case. Your costings may cause you to decide that you have to fundraise to have the resources you need.
The main elements of your strategy that need to be incorporated into your action planning are:
Key 'Asks' - Messages
The key ‘asks’ are simply your demands – the policy change that you want to achieve. They are tailored messages to persuade target audiences through selected channels. Your advocacy asks come from the recommendations from issue research. Ideally you will have three to five key messages that are relevant to all stakeholders. (Other more specific messages can then be decided upon later for each of your key targets.)
Think about your issue from the perspective of your audience. What do they need to hear to make the change you want? Your message is your ‘ask’, and should be clear, true, and persuasive to the group you are trying to influence.
Your message will sound very different depending on who gives it. In general, the most effective messengers are those who can speak from personal experience, professionals who have credibility in the field, and those who have a special connection with your target audience.
Your message will also sound different if delivered in a private meeting than it would at a protest. Think about how your audience would receive your group in different contexts. You may start with something small and move to a more public forum if you have not achieved the results you want.
When thinking about each of these questions, also take into account your resources – group members, networking and alliances to reinforce your political strength, information, money, etc.
Below is a table that you could include in your strategy:
|Action we want to take
|Medium of transmitting message
For larger organizations choosing a number of advocacy issues, it is also important to choose a good ‘advocacy issue mix’ – for example, one major issues, one ‘gateway issue’ (to attract people into the organization and/or to the wider issues) and at least one issue with a high likelihood of success (in the not too distant future).
When charting a pathway to success, it is necessary to decide not only to decide on your strategic approaches, but also the best order and approach for these. The following is an example for animal experimentation:
The strategy process provides a path to follow and results in an ‘Advocacy Strategy Document’ – a paper to be circulated to your colleagues. The document shows your allies what you are hoping to achieve and how. You should share the draft with other staff or stakeholders and get their feedback and comments before you finalize it. You can assess your draft strategy against the checklist below.
The following is a check-list to determine whether your advocacy is likely to succeed:
- Likelihood of success
- Is the objective achievable? Even with opposition?
- Do qualitative or quantitative data exist which show that reaching the objective will result in real improvements in the situation?
- Potential impact of success
- Potential for networking and alliances
- Will many people support the strategy? Do people care about the objective deeply enough to take action?
- Do you have the alliances with key individuals or organizations needed to achieve your objective?
- Will the objective help build alliances with other sectors, NGOs, leaders, or stakeholders? Which ones?
- Cost/resources needed
- What are the costs of the selected strategy? Will the anticipated benefits justify the efforts and resources expended?
- Do you have the skills and expertise needed to achieve the objective? Or can these be built?
- Do you have sufficient resources to ensure completion of the strategy?
- Will you be able to raise money or other resources to support your work on the objective?
- Time it will take - realistically
- Fit with your organization’s values and ways of working
- Impact upon your organization’s reputation
- Will the selected strategy help to promote and achieve your overall vision and mission?
- Will the objective help to achieve positive publicity and profile?
- Will the objective help to build your organization’s credibility?
There are ten key elements of a successful strategy: