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Advocacy in 8 steps

What does Advocacy mean?

People may interpret advocacy differently. Therefore, it is important to clarify what we mean by advocacy. MS organisations embarking into
advocacy work need to agree among their staff/volunteers and with stakeholders (people with/affected by MS, potential allies etc.) on a working
definition for advocacy.
The following definition interprets what we mean by advocacy within these guidelines:
"Advocacy is an ongoing process aiming at change of attitudes, actions, policies and laws by influencing people and organisations with power,
systems and structures at different levels for the betterment of people affected by the issue."
Reference: Adapted from an advocacy skills-building workshop, India HIV/AIDS Alliance, India, November 2002.

What can it change?

Policies, policies practice and laws

Target group
It mainly targets people who have influence over others (decision-makers, leaders, policy makers and people in position of influence)

Success indicators of advocacy

The typical indicators of success of advocacy work are a change in the policies, policies implementations or laws in favour to your beneficiaries.

Copyright: MSIF 2014

Advocacy planning stairs

The following diagrams will give you an idea of the process that you will need to undertake to carry out advocacy work:

(Source: Advocacy planning framework of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Copyright: MSIF 2014

Participation of people with/affected by MS

at the different stages of advocacy planning
can be key to the success of your work.

8 steps of the planning and implementing of an advocacy work

This section will explore each step of the 8 steps of the advocacy work ladder (Shown above) and gives top tips and questions to help you
planning for your advocacy work.

Step 1 What problem you want to address & Step 2 - Analysis and research the problem


Identify the problem (use participatory tools such as problem tree analysis1).
Know your problem and understand different forces, positive forces for change and obstacles for change (use participatory tools such as
and force field analysis2).
How will you be building your powerful case study that will attract decision makers/influencers? What is your EVIDENCE? (statistics or
emotion/human story-based or both?):


Number of people affected with MS compared with other diseases?

Number of MRI machines?
Availability of MS information?
Number of neurologists? Number of MS-specialised health professionals?
Quality of life of people with MS?
Are these figures very low compared with neighbouring countries/countries in your region?

- How MS has affected some families in your country (economically, physiologically and socially)? Do you have some powerful individual


Copyright: MSIF 2014

The following table give an example of how information and evidence can be collected:



What existing policies and laws in place cause these problems and how are they implemented?
How could changes in policy/law help resolve the problems?
What type of policy change is needed (legislative, regulatory, legal decision, or other)?
What are the financial implications/economic impact of the proposed policy change?
What does the change you are aiming to achieve bring to people with/affected by MS?

Copyright: MSIF 2014


Review your previous advocacy work/other similar organisations advocacy work (What was the objective? Was the objective achieved?
What was the key success? What are the learnings?) - The following table can help in reviewing previous advocacy work:
Advocacy programme
name and objective




How to improve?
Worth repeating?

Step 3 - Develop specific objective(s) for your advocacy work

What are the specific measurable changes that you want to achieve? The more specific your objective the more achievable
MSIFs Principles to Promote the Quality of Life of People with MS can be a helpful tool to explore the different Principles/themes for which you
can advocate. It also includes key messages for each Principle that can be adopted to your context and employed in your advocacy work.

Make your objective(s) SMART:


Copyright: MSIF 2014






Step 4 - Identify your target:

Identify your key decision-maker. Think about individuals and institutions involved in decision-making. VSO Participatory Advocacy Toolkit
describes target identification as:

People and organisations are at the heart of policy-making. To succeed in influencing policy, it is necessary to understand their motivations
and the way in which power and influence work. Successful advocacy involves building and maintaining relationships that enable you to
influence policy-making in favour of your issue.
First, identify the institutions and individuals involved in decision-making. This will include all stakeholders associated with the desired
policy change, for example:
decision-makers (major powerful players regional, national or local, where relevant)
advisers to decision-makers
influencers (eg newspaper editors)
disadvantaged people
allies and supporters
undecided on the issue (who you may be able to influence).
Next, research and analysis is needed to uncover:
relationships and tensions between the players
their agendas and constraints
their motivations and interests
what their priorities are rational, emotional, and personal.

Copyright: MSIF 2014

It is important to map decision-makers and

their sources of influence. This picture
shows how a decision-maker, a Minister,
can indirectly influenced by indirect targets.

These indirect targets can also be lobbied in

a way that encourages them to lobby other
indirect targets, thus making the approach
more acceptable to the Minister. For
example, an NGO lobbies a think tank to
make approaches to the Permanent
Secretary or Special Adviser, who then
approaches the Minister. Or a friend or
family member of the Minister approaches
his wife, who then tackles the issue with her
VSO Participatory Advocacy Toolkit

Copyright: MSIF 2014

(Source: VSO Participatory Advocacy Toolkit)

Step 5 (Identify your Resources):

Identify all the resources you will need (human resources and financial resources). You can combine this step with Step 7 where you will be
exploring different tactics and actions.

Step 6 (Identify your Allies):

Do you need to have allies? Through the previous steps, particularly, Steps 1 and 4, have you identified your allies?
Do not forget that working within alliance means thinking of and agreeing on the purpose and the expected outcome of the alliance, roles and
responsibilities, communication channels etc.

Step 7 (Create an action plan):

This is one of many advocacy action plan templates. Use the information you have gathered in the previous steps to complete the following
Advocacy Action Plan
Where you are
now (baseline):
Your Change

Key target & Agents

(indirect target)

Key target of

Agents of change
(indirect target):

Actions and tactics for


Resources needed







Indicators of
Copyright: MSIF 2014


Your allies/partners


Advocacy Action Plan

You need to consider the key communication message that you will be using in your advocacy work. Make sure your key messages are
concise and simple. Keep in your mind your target audience while crafting your key messages. See the following tips on crafting key messages
from the VSO Participatory Advocacy Toolkit:

Keep it short and simple (KISS)

Try to keep messages as short and simple as possible.
Be direct, straightforward and memorable.
The job of the campaigner is to translate complex policy messages into simple and emotive messages.
Have recognisable soundbites, if possible in the campaign name/slogan.
The one-minute message: Statement + Evidence + Example = Action Needed
Ideally, there should be only one main point communicated or, if that is not possible, two or three at the most. Do not lose impact by
complicating your message. If in doubt, test your message with a representative of your target.
Adding impact to messages
Develop a strong, clear message and stress its urgency.
Tie your message into urgent political and social concerns.
Repeat your message through a variety of channels and messengers.
Creativity helps use humour, metaphors, popular expressions, etc.
Communicate in pictures too one picture is worth a thousand words.
Reinforcing your message
Do not just send your message once and then forget about it! If it does not receive a positive response, reinforce your message. This can be
done in a number of ways:
Re-send the message but in a new way. Do not bombard your target. Try asking others to write along the same lines, or bring in new
information or angles, referring back to your original communication.

Copyright: MSIF 2014

The methods you select depend on many factors including your change objective, the context (what works well in your country), the availability
of resources, your target audience and time-frame. The following are some examples:
Communication with the decision-makers

Face-to-face meetings
Telephone calls

Policy paper/Brief note (A 2-4 paged paper summarising the

problem, information about the problem, your suggested
solutions, information about your organisation)
Formal Letters (1-page letter that contains your
problem/advocacy message and asks the decision-maker to take
specific action. Never use a threatening tone, ask for a reply and
include specific questions).

Inviting officials to special occasions

Phone-in during TV/Radio broadcast.


Photos (for magazines, newspapers, etc)


Media coverage
Press release
Media interviews
Press conference
Paid advertisements (TV, radio or
written media)

Electronic petitions
Websites and Social media
SMS (texts)


Newsletter paper or email

Leaflets, brochures or factsheets
FAQs answers to most frequently
asked questions
Action pack to encourage activists to
play an active part in the campaign

Posters or billboards
T-shirts/caps, Car stickers
Postcards, badges or

And more.


Identify yourself: State your name and identify yourself as a constituent.

Be Specific: Include the name and number of the relevant bill/law. Clearly describe the issue and state your objectives.
Make it Personal: Use personal examples and speak in your own words.
Be Confident: Your officials job is to represent you. You may also know more about the issue than your elected official. That is why it is a
good idea to offer yourself as a source of information.
Be Polite: If you are rude, your message will not be received.
Be Brief: Communication that focuses strongly on one argument is the most effective. Keep it to one issue.

Copyright: MSIF 2014

Be Timely: Your message is more likely to be considered if it is immediately relevant.

Be Factual: Use facts and statistics. Make sure the information you provide is accurate.

Step 8 (Implement, monitor and evaluate):

NOW, start the implementation of your action plan. Keep monitoring the implementation and try to answer this question Are we on the right
track towards achieving our indicators? If the answer is YES, then keep going. If the answer is NO, then review the action plan and other steps
and make the changes needed.
Evaluation is very important to inform you whether you have achieved your objective or not, what went well and what went wrong for the future

References and other resources:

- Making change happen: An MSIF guide to advocacy

Principles for the quality of life advocacy tool
- Atlas of MS

- Participatory Advocacy: A toolkit for VSO staff, volunteers and partners by VSO

Advocacy in action: A toolkit to support NGOs and CBOs responding to HIV/AIDS by International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Advocacy techniques. Save the Children
Copyright: MSIF 2014