Designing an Advocacy Strategy

© 2010 Courtesy of Adrienne Allison, World Vision

Advocacy is both an art and a science. Effective advocates for voluntary family planning must adhere to strategic and evidence-informed decisions and planned activities while at the same time remaining creative and ready to seize opportunities as they arise. Strong advocates are savvy enough to nimbly negotiate the contextual complexities in the policy process and flexible enough to adapt to change in order to succeed.

The process of designing an advocacy strategy is not linear and will vary depending on the issue, policy, context and the advocacy group or network. However, each advocacy strategy should involve the following actions, using evidence to make informed decisions throughout the process:

Define the issue.  What is the problem the group seeks to solve?

Set a clear advocacy goal and objectives for policy action. What change do you hope to achieve? What policy decision(s) can address the issue? What is the timeframe? What other efforts are underway to affect change in family planning policy?

Identify target audiences who can either make the necessary change or influence decision makers. Advocates must understand both the policy and political context. It is important to know not only who the decision makers are but also when and on what basis decisions are made.

  • Donors and governments respond to evidence that family planning is a cost-effective strategy that impacts economic development and promotes healthy communities. Effective advocacy focuses on what should be done: improving policies and increasing funding for family planning services and supplies.
  • Ministries of Health and service providers need to understand the importance of policies that support evidence-based best practices, expansion of contraceptive choice and increased contraceptive use. These operational policies link national policies to service delivery, explaining how it should be done.
  • Community leaders and their communities care about the wellbeing of individuals. Advocacy at this level explains why a change is needed, highlighting the health, economic and social benefits of family planning.

With the target audiences in mind, plan a set of activities and design communication materials using the most reliable, relevant and current information. No matter who the target audience is, tailor the communication materials. Anticipate the points of view of opponents and understand how to communicate in a way that will build bridges and identify common ground.  

Expand the base of support and raise resources (both human and financial) to carry out planned activities. These resources can support the dissemination of materials, travel to meet policy makers, communication through various channels, meetings and other activities.

Design a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) strategy. Determine what data will be collected, how it will be collected, and how it will be used to inform decisions throughout the advocacy process. The M&E strategy should be able to be adapted as needed.

This section of the Toolkit includes tools and manuals for building the capacity of advocates, assessments to determine institutional capacity for advocacy, handbooks for policy analysis and mapping and guidelines for advocacy planning. These materials are included because they are evidence-informed, well organized and easily understood. These publications complement each other as they address different aspects of advocacy from similar perspectives.    

Do you have tools or guidance for developing a family planning advocacy strategy that are not represented in this toolkit? To suggest an additional resource or share your perspective, please fill out our feedback form.