Your strategy is the central piece of your plan to tackle an issue. Selecting this central piece does not mean you cannot use other strategic pieces to support the main strategy. Advocates and organizations have used a limited number of strategies in their campaigns. Often, people and their organizations use combinations of different strategies to achieve their advocacy goals. Generally speaking, we can group these advocacy and empowerment strategies into nine major strategies based on the situation, the campaign’s primary purpose, or the core activity. Here is an overview of the most common advocacy strategies : Adapted from VeneKlasen, Lisa; and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of People, Power, and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation, Chapter 3. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, … Continue reading
Major Advocacy Strategies
Building a Constituency for Change, a Core Strategy
Constituency building is an advocacy core strategy without which we cannot comfortably claim that what we do is advocacy in our definition. It is a long-term goal that you should always keep in mind and seek to achieve and utilize. Constituency building is both a means and a goal.
The main purpose of using constituency building as a strategy is to help people claim their power and ability to bring about the desired change to their lives. Through building a constituency, advocacy groups and organizations make themselves accountable to their constituencies and help these constituencies hold government and public decision-makers accountable to the general public. Constituency building takes place through raising political awareness, organizing and mobilizing those affected by the problem/issue, or are interested in it, to get involved and take action.
Building organizations where people can participate and collaborate on common goals is necessary to building a vibrant constituency that can add collective power to their voices. Organizations do not have to be officially registered, but adding a formal structure helps better organize people. Organizational building and strengthening are part of the constituency-building strategy. Coalition-building also comes under the constituency-building strategy.
More organizations joining the advocacy campaign means a bigger constituency with bigger collective power. As we will see in another chapter, coalition-building comes with a few challenges that advocates need to be ready for.
As a core strategy, constituency-building must happen with other selected advocacy strategies.
Chapter 7 presents tools on how to build your grassroots constituency.
While you should always keep the constituency-building strategy as a core component of your overall strategy, the cooperation strategy should consider before escalating to other strategies. Your situation analysis should reveal whether the state or other target non-state institutions are willing to cooperate with you or not. The main purpose of this strategy is to build collaboration between community groups, the state, and business and cultural institutions as needed. With that said, Your analysis would still reveal that having cooperation as the central piece of your strategy will not work. However, perhaps down the road, the collective power and pressure you will have created will guide you to modify your strategy to a cooperation one. Most likely, though, powerful state and non-state actors will not be willing to cooperate with you until they see that you have power, and ignoring you may bring troubles their way.
As long as it helps people’s power, using a cooperation strategy is a good starting point.
The main purpose is to educate and raise critical consciousness about your issue and how you want to resolve it. Public education can happen through traditional media and awareness-raising campaigns. It can also take creative forms such as TV shows, music, and art exhibitions.
The public education strategy provides an important participation opportunity for the constituency in many ways, such as expressing themselves, collecting and validating data, formulating messages, coordinating among different groups, and disseminating the messages around the issue. The public education strategy helps expand the constituency, attract allies, and start a public discourse about adopting alternative policies
This strategy is especially useful when there is general denial about the existence of a problem or lack of interest in the problem. To start a public discourse about a given problem, advocates would commission research to clearly define the volume and gravity of the problem, who the affected people are, its root causes, what shapes it takes, and its possible impact on people’s lives. The research results provide the main tool to launch a campaign to address the problem.
The Persuasion Strategy uses information, analysis, and citizen mobilization to press for change. This strategy often involves lobbying and mass media to influence policy-makers and public opinion. Strong communication and negotiation skills and numbers to demonstrate clout are keys to success using this strategy.
You need to be realistic with your persuasion strategy. David Cohen, the Founder and Director of Advocacy Institute, Washington, DC, had an important saying, “Having a good argument does not mean you will win the discussion.” In other words, you will need more than a good argument to convince the decision-makers and power holders. Together with a good argument, you need to come up with the power of your constituency to make them listen to you in the first place.
Pilot or Model Programs Strategies
It isn’t easy to influence the public agenda. A successful model intervention can demonstrate to the public and the decision-makers how your proposed intervention can work in a real situation. The pilot program could be in one or more areas that caused a problem to go away. It can also highlight the existence of a small community that has dealt with the problem in the way you are proposing to generalize.
This strategy promotes social and economic change by testing and challenging policies, laws, and institutions using the court system. You can use local, national, or even international laws to bring justice to your issue. This strategy would require using the help of savvy lawyers to help navigate the shades and nuances of laws and legislations.
Protest is a way to express objection to or disapproval of a specific situation. Organizing a rally, vigils, gathering signatures on a petition, or strikes are forms of protest. Individual or mass resignations are also forms of protest advocates can utilize. For instance, reports came out that President Trump’s team members planned to do mass resignations had Trump taken actions against the 2020 elections.
The timing of the protest is crucial to the success of your protest. You can use protest to create a political moment or respond to a political moment fresh in people’s minds. Most protests manifest some degree of confrontation. Protests often accompany the persuasion strategy. While a persuasion or lobby meeting is underway with an official or the legislature, having several thousands of protesters outside the meeting would likely help persuade the officials or power holders to listen to the people’s demands.
Protest is one of the late strategies to resort to after exhausting other strategies.
Confrontation is a type of protest. All confrontations are protests, but not all protests are confrontational. A vigil in protest of a new rape case in the community would probably not seem like a confrontation with the government.
The purpose of the Confrontation Strategy is to use direct action to challenge and force the decision-makers to remove or amend a harmful policy. It is to bring greater pressure for political change than in other strategies.
It can involve non-violent or violent approaches to direct action. A peaceful demonstration demanding the dissolution of the cabinet is likely a confrontation with the prime minister, but it is peaceful. A hunger strike against human rights violations is confrontational but not violent. We strongly advise against the use of violent approaches to defending a cause. Using violence, in our opinion, would lead to a hard to control spiral of violence and counter-violence. In addition, if the public perceives you as the group that initiated violence, the public will feel threatened and lose trust in you. The Albert Einstein Institution on Non-Violence Struggle identifies 198 methods of Nonviolent Action, most of which are confrontational but peaceful. You can learn more about these methods on the Institution website, www.aeinstein.org.
CRAFTING YOUR ADVOCACY STRATEGY VeneKlasen, Lisa; and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of People, Power and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation, Chapter 3. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, USA.
The advocacy team should carefully review their analysis and then craft the central piece appropriate for their strategy that best addresses the issue. As mentioned before, selecting a central piece for your strategy does not mean you will not need to use other support strategies. The following guidelines should help you select the most appropriate strategy at a given moment.
● This strategy should help you grow your constituency and help the constituency claim and exercise their power to change a difficult situation.
● Some strategies are difficult to use with others at the same time. For instance, if you choose to use litigation as your strategy, you will find it difficult to use a persuasion strategy simultaneously.
● We should combine certain strategies with other strategic pieces to be effective. Using public education is necessary when you use litigation or research strategies. For instance, many lawsuits were successful in the courtroom but missed the opportunity to educate people about the issue and how the case might impact their lives.
● Build the strategy around the strength of your organization/coalition. If you are good at research, see how you can use research as the main tool in your strategy.
● Sometimes through your advocacy campaign, you will find that your opponents will use counter-strategies that you have not thought of. Also, you might discover new facts that you never knew of that require you to shift your strategy overnight. You always need to be prepared for changing the strategy swiftly and properly. The group must discuss when and how to change the strategy and how to communicate the new strategy to the constituency and allies
Working with the Political Moment
As indicated under the “timing” factor in the above quotation, the concept of the political moment is very important. Political moments are the specific times that provide us with special opportunities to push our cause forward. There are three different types of political moments that we need to observe.”
Predictable Political Moments
Usually, elections time provides a predictable political moment where politicians are willing to listen to people’s demands more than others. As much as elections can be a good opportunity for us, they can, as well, be a good opportunity for our opponents. We should be fully ready to mobilize our constituency to carry a repeated message to politicians to show ourselves as a strong voting block.
Unpredictable Political Moments
While almost all unfortunate accidents or disasters happen in hard to predict moments, they also provide us with an opportunity to highlight our issue and help us organize people around the need to do something about these issues. Advocates should be vigilant in using such unfortunate moments to organize more people around the issue while such incidents are fresh in people’s minds.
Planned Political Moments
When predictable moments are far in the future, we can still create appropriate political moments to raise people’s awareness about the issue and the need to do something about it. Examples of such planned political moments might be organizing a conference that discusses the issue, a movie that speaks to our issue and inviting a national or international celebrity known for supporting our issue.
Strategy Development Chart Adapted from the Mid West Academy, www.midwestacademy.com
Following is an example of how other groups have developed easy-to-use strategy development tools. The following Advocacy Development Chart is adapted from Mid-West Academy to help advocacy groups to aggregate the most important factors together. This chart is one of the examples that groups can use and adapt to serve their strategy drawing purposes.
1. List the long-term goals of your advocacy campaign.
2. What actions, decisions, or changes do you want in the long-term
– what will best address the basic cause of your problem, and how will you be able to maintain your gains if successful?
– On a policy or political dimension, what specific changes do we want in a policy, law, program, or behavior?
– On a civil society dimension, what will strengthen NGOs and grassroots groups as a result of our advocacy so we can sustain and expand our gains?
– On a democracy dimension, how does our advocacy effort advance the political space, transparency, accountability, participation, and legitimacy of civil society t?
3. State the intermediate goals. What constitutes victory?
To what extent will the campaign?
– Win concrete improvements in people’s lives?
– Alter the relations of power?
– Give people a sense of their power and confidence?
– Build strong organizations that can make relations of power more equitable and democratic?
– Improve alliances between colleague organizations?
– Incorporate political awareness and citizen advocacy skills?
– Increase citizen/NGO access to policy-making?
4. What short-term or partial victories can we win as steps toward our longer-term and transformational goals?
After analyzing your issue and discussing all available considerations, which strategy, or a combination of strategies from the above, will you select for your campaign? Please explain the reasons behind your selection.
|↑1||Adapted from VeneKlasen, Lisa; and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of People, Power, and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation, Chapter 3. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, USA.|
|↑2||VeneKlasen, Lisa; and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of People, Power and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation, Chapter 3. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, USA.|
|↑3||Adapted from the Mid West Academy, www.midwestacademy.com|