Many people think that advocacy is about perfecting a message and sticking to your script. There is a widely shared assumption that advocacy is about talking. In fact, advocacy is more about listening than talking. The secret of good advocacy is to listen to the person you want to influence first.
For me, advocacy is about closing the gap between policy and action. I learned this when I was working with a cross sector group of change makers who were trying to influence policy makers in Africa. Our challenge was to communicate the evidence to high-level decision-makers in ways that would convince them of the need to make change happen. What worked was investing time in building relationships with decision-makers, and letting the facts speak for themselves.
Advocacy skills sit at one end of a spectrum that includes influencing skills, professional lobbying, and negotiation skills. People who are good at influencing others know how to move around the negotiation spectrum, depending on what they want to change and who they need to get on side.
Some examples of advocacy and influencing skills training I have delivered can be found here:
UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI)
Leadership and Advocacy Skills Workshop
- Four 5-day programmes
- After a successful pilot in Kenya, additional courses delivered in Botswana, Burkina Faso and Senegal (in French)
- 20-25 participants from different sectors
- Facilitation team (2-3) changed depending on the country and the language required
- Core content included leadership and sustainability, advocacy and influencing Skills
- Case studies changed according to the context
The PEI is a global programme that works with key government partners to raise awareness, influence policy making and strengthen the mainstreaming of poverty-environment into budget processes. I was fortunate to be asked to deliver a pilot leadership and advocacy skills workshop for the first PEI ‘Champions’ in Kenya. The pilot led to further workshops in Botswana, Burkina Faso, and Senegal.
Kepa, the umbrella organisation for Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs), and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM)
Advocacy Skills Workshops March (Kepa) and November (FELM) 2011
- Two 2-day participative courses with 20-25 participants
- The Kepa course was open to individuals from Kepa affiliates
- The FELM course was bespoke, and co-facilitated with Kristiina Rintakoski, Director for Advocacy, FELM
- Core content included influencing, behaviour change and messenging theory and practice
I went on to deliver bespoke advocacy skills training in Helsinki, for Kepa, the umbrella organisation for Finnish civil society organisations, and later, for FELM, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Church of Finland. What I learned was that some Finns think that as a nation they do not say very much. I can’t comment on that, but I was delighted when one participant said: “You are making us quiet Finns very talkative with your participative methods.”
“Edward Kellow provided a two day training for FELM’s (a Finnish NGO) executive staff on advocacy and communications skills. The course was tailor-made for our needs. We appreciated his ability to listen us and plan together a workshop that met our needs. The group was inspired and motivated after the training. Edward was excellent at engaging individuals and coaching participants through positive feedback.” – Kristiina Rintakoski, Director for Advocacy, FELM