Tool 1. What is advocacy and why it is useful

What is advocacy?

According to Wikipedia, advocacy is: "a political process by an individual or a group which aims to influence public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions.....Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research....." (Advocacy on Wikipedia)

For this Toolkit, advocacy may be more broadly defined as communication - communicating the right information, messages and evidence to influence people so that their awareness is raised, their behaviour changes and a variety of actions are undertaken to support the principles and tasks that can help to open up agricultural knowledge for all.

So  this Toolkit can help you if you want to do any of the following:

  • Advocacy
  • Communication
  • Raising awareness
  • Putting forward a message/ making a case/ presenting an argument
  • Influencing people
  • Changing behaviour and actions

Why advocacy?

The ways that agricultural knowledge is shared are changing, particularly with the increasing use of the Internet and digital media.  But this change is often slow as organizations struggle to harness the new media fully, whether it be through lack of policies or lack of skills.  Sharing may remain restricted to certain types of knowledge or target groups as managers and scientists question the value of 'opening up' their knowledge.  In addition, existing efforts on opening access to knowledge often show a lack of coherence in terms of methods and tools that can restrict accessibility of knowledge outputs.

Apart from that, there is growing international pressure from scientists and other stakeholders on governments to provide access to the outputs of public domain research - such as the "Open Access" movement - but in reality many governments are either not taking action in this area or are moving very slowly. 

So the concerns of policy-makers and scientists need to be addressed, and the value and impact of greater sharing need to be explained and supported with evidence, so that decisions are made to stimulate and support the necessary actions.

Advocacy can be a useful tool for moving this forward by:

  • Increasing the strength of communication efforts in a targeted way, with a key purpose
  • Seeking to provide key arguments and messages
  • Being change oriented
  • Using specific methods and tools to define and promote a particular cause
  • Appealing to people

Advocacy for opening up agricultural knowledge to all

In the case of opening up agricultural knowledge, advocacy is about:

  • raising awareness amongst various groups about the reality of 'locked up' knowledge, how to open it up, the benefits, the incentives for doing so, costs, and the necessary action
  • making a case for unlocking agricultural knowledge - including key issues and evidence
  • convincing decision makers to provide decisions, resources, policies or other forms of support towards actions to unlock agricultural knowledge
  • moving forward an agenda and action plan to open up agricultural knowledge in your organisation or institute

Examples of advocacy towards opening up access

It is useful to observe and learn from efforts of others in carrying out such activities as advocacy towards opening up agricultural knowledge. Below are some examples of advocacy for sharing knowledge and opening access:

  • The blog of the CGIAR ICT-KM Program provided numerous posts aimed at advocacy towards better sharing of agricultural knowledge
  • European Union - Open AIRE initiative
  • IAALD connects a growing community of professionals from more than 75 countries - all with a strong interest inagricultural information and knowledge management; collaborates with members and many other partner organisations to facilitate learning opportunities; communicates and advocates the value of knowledge and information sharing; and convenes agricultural information professionals worldwide through face-to-face meetings and social networking opportunities.
  • Electronic Information for Libraries EIFL-Open Access Program works in collaboration with libraries in more than 60 developing and transition countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. It enables access to knowledge for education, learning, research and sustainable community development. EIFL is an international not-for-profit based in Europe with a global network of partners. They run a wide range of programs and events designed to increase access to knowledge.

NOTE: It is important also to note that there are many examples of advocacy and action towards opening up access to information and knowledge from outside of the agricultural sector that we can learn from, such as the health sector.