Advocacy programmes are at times perceived as ineffective, controversial and hard to measure, making them less likely to attract funding and the interest of donors, which is unfortunate considering the invaluable contribution that advocacy programmes make towards sustainability.
The following are key considerations that each organisation working in advocacy should consider:
- Solid research: whether you are raising awareness or arguing a specific position, your advocacy programme has to be based on rigorous research and objective evidence that supports your position. Even if advocating for a new, innovative solution to a development challenge, it must be grounded in a deep understanding of the context, key stakeholders and historical evidence of tracking past unsuccessful interventions. Remember you are not advocating your own opinion.
- Know your advocacy: considering advocacy can mean different things to different people, as an organisation it is vital that you have a common understanding and definition within your organisation of what it entails. This will give grant-makers the ability to decide which parts they would like to fund, depending on their tolerance level to advocacy work.
- Approach to advocacy: are you using the most suitable approach to the challenge you are addressing i.e. is it changing policy or changing behaviour? As an organisation, you should spend time thinking about which is the most effective and efficient approach, e.g. a direct or indirect approach; ‘inside track’ or ‘outside track’ (advocacy from within, working with decision-makers, or from outside by confronting or exposing).
- Strong strategy and direction: your advocacy programme has to have an explicit programme theory of how specific activities targeted to certain people are expected to bring about change and when. It is important to be able to articulate this clearly with an awareness of the different power dynamics and spheres of influence.
- Structured, yet responsive monitoring and evaluation (M&E): advocacy programmes deal with complex processes and M&E can be challenging, but is essential. There are many approaches, but what is required is to have a structured process for monitoring while being responsive to real-time data, and the unexpected effects of your interventions. The more rigorous the tracking, the more likely it is to track the effects of your interventions (outcomes and impact) and perhaps understand causes. It is also vital to collect information from various sources.
Structuring your advocacy programme with the above in mind will likely make it grounded, attractive and effective.
Furthermore, remember that in many ways advocacy programmes are the answer to sustainable change, obviously depending on where the gridlock lies, and if successful they are likely to solve many of the challenges that are currently being addressed through unsustainable interventions.
- Amira Elibiary is a monitoring and evaluation specialist at Tshikululu Social Investments. This article first appeared on the Tshikululu Social Investments website.