Advocacy efforts take many forms and can leverage power, identity, values, opportunity, and generational or cultural shifts.  They can elicit sympathy, anger, or celebration among advocates, leaders, and the population.  Advocacy is cultural, social, and political and reflects time and place.

In training and work around the world, I take a very broad view and define advocacy as a push for change.

Advocacy efforts need not always be directed at the government.  I have been involved with disability rights advocates pushing the medical community and corruption advocates fighting for change in the judiciary.

I have also seen a broad variety of tactics used to bring change.  Some are cooperative, such as joint advocacy by the Afghan local government and civic leaders to get approvals and resources from a national ministry.

There is one universal element of advocacy common to all counties. I have included it here because it is the most important takeaway for advocates around the world.   Identify and map whether the problem is a policy decision, its implementation, or the community’s understanding of it.

Policy, Law, Decision   The problem is the decision, policy, or law, and the target is decision-makers in government or communities. Decisions can also be a decision, pledge, or letter by a decision-maker.  Problems with voter lists require decisions from Election Commissions.  Governors may need to write an executive order, or Medical Boards may need to vote on a new protocol.  These are problems solved by advocacy for a decision or policy.

Implementation   The problem is the implementation or practices of that decision.  The target is government agencies, courts, police, or other implementers.  Children have labor protections, but most police and courts refuse to prosecute parents or employers for sending children to work.   The government allocates money to schools, but often students don’t receive what is sent to them. These are problems solved by advocacy efforts about the implementation of a decision.

Community Support    The problem is with the community’s understanding or support of the law.  Advocacy targets are a target audience to inform and encourage them to act or change behaviors.  People know they should not throw garbage on empty land, but they do.  There is a stigma for women working in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. These problems with community support are often solved through public awareness or behavior change campaigns.

I shared with Nigerian NGO trainers to show how this focuses the effort.

Nigeria Car Seatbelt Law

  • Already been passed into law by the Parliament and the President. Does anything need to be added to the law?  Are there any loopholes?

Enforcement / Implementation

  • Does the Road Safety Agency give tickets for those not wearing seat belts?
  • Does the court support these tickets and fine people that don’t pay them?
  • Do driving schools require seat belt education?
  • Does more need to be done here?

Community Support:  Behavior of Drivers

  • Are there posters or billboards on roadsides as reminders?
  • Are there mentions in media when safety belts were not used during an accident?
  • Is there school-based education on road safety?
  • Does more need to be done here?