What is Advocacy? An Overview
Advocacy encompasses not only raising the awareness of the public (often about a particular issue) and, creating or reforming policies, but also effectively implementing and enforcing of policies. That is to say, by advocating we try to influence decision makers to change certain policy, to change public opinion or attitudes, and/or to mobilize resources for social change.
Advocacy is essentially about policy change in three areas:
- creating policies where they do not exist;
- refining harmful or ineffective policies and
- ensuring good policies are followed, implemented and enforced.
Advocacy largely depends on political environment, policy regime, sociocultural context, capacity, expertise/skills and interests of actors, civic space and opportunities available. Therefore, to be successful, advocacy must take place in a particular context and be aimed at a particular target. It will help to use information strategically in a political environment so as to maximize influence on the bodies, institutions or individuals that are responsible for making, deciding and implementing policy.
The World Bank gives a general definition of advocacy as in influencing or changing relationships of power. In this regard, advocacy is all about:
- Representation: speaking on behalf of others (for),
- Mobilization: encouraging others to speak with you (with); and
- Empowerment: supporting others to speak for themselves.
Effective and sustainable advocacy must be rooted in target group’s experiences; it should aim to build on their understanding of their experiences and help them engage in the policy- influencing process. It should strive for constructive engagement with advocacy targets, using a full range of advocacy tools such as lobbying, media, campaigning, networking or public education. It can also include capacity and relationship building, as well as leadership development.
It demands work in and among partnerships and collaboratives with other like-minded entities, not just service-delivery partners. Therefore, it is based on the principle of solidarity. Finally, all advocacy work must be based on clear evidence and analysis.