Tool 3. Planning advocacy: strategic approaches

To plan and implement strategic advocacy activities - you need to first know WHAT's the situation, HOW this problem needs to be addressed, and WHO you are trying to advocate to.  You should follow the five steps outlined below.

Step 1. Define what you want to advocate for?

In general you will use advocacy to move forward an agenda or an activity that is facing certain barriers to its implementation and success.

What would you like to be done in order to 'opening agricultural knowledge for all' in your organization/country etc.? [What are your goals?]

Example: All research outputs are to be made accessible through an open repository.

What stands in the way of this goal being achieved? [challenges, barriers]

Example: Scientists could be reluctant to share their outputs in the repository.

What can be done to overcome specific challenges or barriers? [actions, decisions]

Examples: An organizational policy could be developed to mandate that all outputs are uploaded into a repository.  Awareness could be raised of the benefits. Concerns could be identified and addressed.

Step 2. Identify your target audience for your advocacy (based on what you want to advocate for)? 

Once you have the completed Step 1, the key to making advocacy successful is to identify the people who have the right position and authority to make decisions, initiate change, and take action that is appropriate to overcome the barriers and advance your goal.  These people are the ones you have to target with the right messages to influence them at the right time.

Who is/are the target audience(s) for your advocacy? Who needs to be influenced? Who can make the level of decision necessary for what you want to achieve?  There may be several people or groups who can help, and they may or may not be audiences that you can reach directly to advocate. 

Example: The management team of an organization can develop a policy, and raise the awareness of  scientists to make them more willing to share.

3. Understanding your target audience

The next task is to define their current understanding and position on what you are advocating for, in terms of whether it is positive, negative or neutral.  You should define their mandate, agenda, priorities, and goals, and then consider how you want them to change, in terms of their attitude, taking a decision, or taking action.

You will have to consider how best reach this person/group, in terms of opportunities to interact with them, and what they would best respond to.  You may not be able to advocate directly to the person(s) or group(s) yourself, so may need to decide who can act as an intermediary and influence them to help with your case.

Example: That person/group could be a senior manager, someone outside the organisation, a politician, or the media.

Then you will have to consider how you can influence those people/groups? Who could act as champions for your case? How might you be able to involve them in making the case?

4. Making the case and preparing your 'message'

You need to develop your advocacy message(s) and supporting argument based on what you want to achieve, and what you want the target people/group to do in terms of some clear action points.  You need to start by defining the current situation and the problems/challenges [but don't be too negative].

Example - Soil Research Institute (SRI): The situation may be that most research outputs produced are not easily accessible for the staff of SRI, for partners and for other stakeholders. The main problem is that SRI researchers are reluctant to share their outputs.

You need to define the implications of the problem/challenge in relation to the organization's mandate or the audiences, indicating if possible the economic or social effects. You should gather evidence to validate these points as much as possible, even if that evidence is anecdotal.

Example: SRI is losing visibility and credibility of its research because its outputs are not reaching those who can use them. Only 10% of SRI's outputs are described in documents accessible on its website. The government has introduced a new policy that all public sector organizations must communicate their outputs.

You need to indicate what could/should be done to address this problem/challenge. You can also gather some case studies that show how other organizations are addressing that or a similar situation.

Example: SRI should develop a policy that defines what its researchers should do to share their publications and other outputs, perhaps based on a policy developed by another organization last year.

You need to lay out clearly what you would like the target person/group to do - make the actions specific and few in number, and show what support is required and where it might be obtained from.

Example: The policy can be designed by SRI's information management unit. The policy will need to be endorsed and presented by management (your target) to SRI's researchers, with clear assignment of responsibility for its monitoring and annual assessment.

You will need to define essential details of time frame, costs, people to be involved/affected,etc - and provide any case studies where possible

ExampleDevelopment of the policy will take approximately 3 months, including a background study, consultation with managers and staff, and finalization with SRI's top management.  The information management unit will need to allocate 50% of the time of three professional staff to the task.

5. Choosing your delivery tools

People respond differently to different communication methods and tools. The mechanism for delivering the massage is as, if not more, important than the message being presented itself - so this needs to be clearly thought out and prepared.

You can find some suggestions of types of methods/tools to use to communicate and advocate to particular people see the table at the bottom of Tool 6- How to select and target key decision-makers.

Good luck with your advocacy! And you can share your experiences on this site through Tool 9.