What is advocacy?
Advocacy means identifying and calling for change! This can be a change in laws, policies and implementation but also in social structures and values in order to help improve the lives of people and fight the root causes of injustice.
Advocacy is both a science and an art. From a scientific perspective, there is no universal formula for effective advocacy. Nevertheless, experience shows that advocacy is most effective when it is planned systematically (as described below) and when you make use of accurate data and concrete examples.
Advocacy is also an art. Successful advocates are able to articulate issues in ways that inspire others and motivate them to take action. They have a keen sense of timing and are able to recognize and act as opportunities present themselves. Successful advocates are skilled negotiators and consensus builders who look for opportunities to affect modest but strategic policy changes, while simultaneously creating opportunities for larger victories.
We can offer some advocacy tools, but you must add the spark!
Benefits of doing advocacy for female condoms
- It will help your voice to be heard and will show the demand for female condoms in your community or country.
- It will have a great impact for a large number of people when you get a law or policy changed to make sure that female condoms are available and accessible.
- It will create awareness about female condoms among decision makers, community and media. An inspiring example of a large awareness raising campaign about the demand for female condoms is the paper doll campaign.
- It enlarges the credibility of your organisation: you show government officials that you want to cooperate with them and work within the government structures.
- It increases your network tremendously that will help to share the work and to enhance each others work. An example of an international network is the International Advocacy Platform for Female Condoms.
Steps to build your advocacy strategy
What needs to change?
1. Identify your advocacy issue
Analyze the issues that you or your organization are most interested in addressing in your national, regional or local context. Identify the issue that requires a policy or decision-making change. Make this issue specific and analyze the root causes, the barriers to solve them and the policy-related solutions.
2. Set your advocacy goal, objectives and indicators
Your advocacy goal is a general statement of what you want to achieve in the long term. This builds on your advocacy issue by adding who must make the policy change (e.g. person, institution or office), how the policy change must be made (e.g. through a specific bill, guidance or regulation) and when it should be achieved.
The advocacy objectives describe short-term, specific, measurable achievements that contribute to the overall advocacy goal. Objectives must be clear and focused.
The indicators will indicate if you are on track in meeting your advocacy goal. Specific and measurable indicators will ease the process of monitoring or evaluating your achievements.
Who can make that change happen?
3. Analyze your working environment
- Identify the key actors that have influence or power in relation to your advocacy goal.
- Analyze if these key actors are already supportive of the idea of change, resistant or undecided. Assess their level of knowledge.
- Investigate their potential benefits or risks of supporting your objectives.
- Investigate what they can do to address your issue.
- Out of this analysis, set your priorities who your actual target audience is.
4. Build support
Advocacy is not a process that should be executed in isolation. Finding supporters strengthens the advocacy message and increases the credibility of organizations that are advocating for the same cause. Supporters can be found in e.g. women’s groups, youth groups, among parliamentarians, health practitioners, community leaders. Choosing the right people with the appropriate networks and contacts will contribute to reaching out to policy and decision- makers.
If you would like to connect to female condom advocates all over the world and to stay up to date with important developments, consider registration at the International Advocacy Platform for Female Condoms.
How to do advocacy?
5. Develop your advocacy message
Advocacy messages need to be adjusted according to the target audience and include the problem statement, facts, persuasion and the desired action of the policy and decision maker. For every target audience you prioritized your advocacy message that contribute to one of your advocacy objectives. To strengthen your message you can make use of the latest facts and figures, real-life examples, and a clear call-to-action. Make sure that you do not provide too much information all in once, as this might be confusing your advocacy ask and weaken your point made!
A very useful document that might enhance your advocacy messages is the Business Case for Female Condoms as promoting female condoms has economic advantages, as well as social advantages that create growth, income equality and economic development. This document is particularly useful while advocating national governments and large organizations such as UNFPA or Marie Stopes International (MSI).
Another very useful document for female condom advocates is the UAFC Implementation Guide for Female Condoms, as implementation of female condom programming might be one of your specific advocacy asks to your target.
6. Improve your advocacy skills
Many of the basic strategies for approaching and persuading opinion leaders are the same whether they are at the community, regional or national level. As advocacy is both a science and an art, you will improve your advocacy skills by ‘prepare and practice’! Prepare your advocacy message well in advance so that your message is clear and convincing and suits your target audience. Make use of accurate data for your evidence and make your message more personal by adding an example. Practice to make sure that you feel confident to advocate for the message you want to deliver. Role plays can be very effective!
Concrete advocacy planning
7. Select advocacy materials and channels of communication
Common advocacy channels are position papers, letters, fact sheets, public debates, public media outlets, the press and conferences targeting policy makers. Your target audience determines the most appropriate medium for your advocacy message.
8. Develop your implementation plan
Develop an implementation plan that set out the specific advocacy activities and tasks, the responsible person(s), the desired time frame, and required resources. Include in the implementation plan also when and how to monitor and evaluate your advocacy activities to keep on track to achieve your objectives and eventually your advocacy goal.
The ability to engage with the media and to get more people to learn about female condoms requires strategic planning. Advocates for female condoms face challenges when working with the media. Most media coverage begins with negative comments about female condoms – their price, noisiness and the assumption that there is no demand for the devices. When you engage with journalists to promote female condom initiatives, be prepared to meet these biases head on. In the Q&A section of this advocacy toolkit you will find common questions about female condoms. Our advise is: talk about the positive steps that are being taking to make universal access to female condoms a reality. The facts provided serve as an excellent basis for talking points. Know this information well so you can return to it when an interview gets challenging.