Step-by-Step Advocacy Planning

From the AYLEE Advocacy Toolkit, which was created by the Centre for Global Education and Alberta Council for Environmental Education, use this step-by-step guide to develop an advocacy action plan!

What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is the organized process of influencing those who make policy. Advocacy can involve the creation, modification, implementation and enforcement of policies. The term “policy” includes government legislation, but can have a much wider meaning.

Advocacy is a process or an action to ensure community rights are respected and effective. Anybody can start an advocacy action, but the more it is structured and organized, the higher the chance of success. Lobbying and campaigning are part of advocacy. Lobbying is undertaken by a small number of experts in a specific issue. Campaigning is a series of initiatives, which aim at raising public or political interest on a specific issue. We can define advocacy as a coordinated set of actions to concretely influence a decision-making process.

Creating an Advocacy Plan

Effective advocacy, of any kind, requires building a solid strategy or plan and practicing skills to help you feel comfortable and confident in reaching your advocacy goals.

Why is having a plan so important? Because it allows you to take action as an advocate in a thoughtful way. By really thinking about what you want to advocate for and how your will take action, you are more likely to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

This planning process takes time. Sometimes even the best laid plans fail to achieve the identified goal. It requires that you clarify your goal, identify who you will communicate with to achieve your goal, determine what methods or strategies you want to employ and figure out what steps you need to take for follow-up.

Step 1:
Problem Analysis

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We have all been overwhelmed at one point or another by something or somethings that we want to change in our lives. All good advocacy starts with a good understanding of the problem. You have to understand what you want before you can do anything about it. It sounds simple, right? Well, not necessarily. Sometimes the problems can be complicated to break down.

Questions to Answer:

  1. What is the problem or issue? If there is more than one, focus on one at a time.

  2. What is my goal?

  3. What facts do I know?

Step 2:
Information Gathering

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In order to be able to effectively advocate, you must have a clear understanding of the facts that you know, and also a firm grasp of what information you might need to gather. Educate yourself about the laws, rules, and, policies that apply to your situation.

Questions to Answer:

  1. What additional facts or information might I need regarding this situation, such as laws, rules or policies?

  2. How can I go about gathering this information?

  3. Who are the decision-makers that I need to influence to solve this problem?

  4. Are there other people who can help me?

Step 3:
Solution Analysis

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After you’ve figured out what your rights are and have broken down the problem, then you’re ready to look for a solution. An old adage says that each problem has a unique solution. By using a systematic approach, you’re more likely to find the solution that fits your problem.

Questions to Answer:

  1. What are some possible solutions to this problem/issue? (be specific)

  2. What are some barriers to these solutions?

  3. What do I expect the other side to do?

Step 4:
Strategizing

Pick one solution and discuss the strategies and tactics you will use to achieve this solution.

Questions to Answer:

  1. Who else can help me?

  2. Who am I trying to reach? (e.g. a MLA, an Alberta Minister, a MP, etc.)

  3. How will I reach them? (e.g. call them, social media campaign, petition, etc.)

  4. What do I expect them to do? What is my ask of them?

  5. What documentation will I need?

Keep in mind that the strategy you use to obtain the advocacy goal may not be successful. It is helpful to think about what you will do if you don’t get what you want the first, second, or even third time around.

If your plan does not work, you may need to review your strategy, what went wrong and alternative ways to resolve your concern. You may want to revisit some of the information-gathering questions listed above and consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What will I do if the strategy doesn’t work? What is the backup plan?

  2. What went wrong? Why didn’t the strategy work?

Step 5: Advocate!

Now that your plan is complete, it is time to carry it out! Here are some additional resources and tips to help you out:

How to find contact information

In addition to obtaining contact information, these resources may help you determine if a specific person is the appropriate decision-maker for the issue you wish to advocate.

10 Tips for effective advocacy

  1. Understand the environment. Know the existing fiscal, political and social context of the government you wish to influence. Know their issues and challenges.

  2. Know the desired outcome. Understand what is trying to be achieved, whether that is to educate, raise awareness or change laws, policies or behaviours.

  3. Have a strategy. Plan what is going to be done and how it is going to be done; don't be haphazard or unfocused.

  4. Be regular and consistent. Don't just appear sporadically when there is a major issue to deal with. To be an effective advocate one must be a regular advocate.

  5. Know your audience. Understand who the individual decision-makers are how much influence they have in a specific area. Identify issues and solutions that fall within their specific sphere of influence.

  6. Make it personal. Wherever possible meet face-to-face and get personal involvement from the individuals within the governments or organizations you are attempting to influence.

  7. Focus on solutions, not problems. Everybody has problems; try to present specific options to addressing issues rather than focusing on the issues themselves.

  8. Be certain of the facts. Nothing diminishes the effectiveness of an advocacy effort faster than basing the case on inaccurate information.

  9. Use many approaches. Don't rely on one particular tool or tactic to get the message to the government or organization you are trying to influence.

  10. Be persistent. If the approaches being used aren't working then try some different ones. Don't give up. Remember that advocacy is a long-term proposition.

Tips for sending effective emails

Email is an effective way to communicate directly with elected officials, including MLAs and MPs. It is fast and inexpensive and it is easy to copy or forward messages to a variety of recipients. The volume of email received by elected officials is increasing dramatically and your email messages may be lost in the overall volume of email. In addition, email is often not read personally by the elected official and a member of the office staff usually responds.

  • Email messages should be shorter and more concise than letters

  • Identify yourself as a constituent when emailing your own MLA or MP since a response is more likely if it is a constituent who is corresponding with the elected official

  • Include your full name, address, and telephone number at the bottom

  • Avoid attaching documents to your message because software is not always compatible. Hyperlinks, however, are ok.

  • Remember that email is not always secure, so do not include confidential information