Advocacy - Influencing Leaders (WD)

Compiled by:
Arne Menn (seecon international gmbh)

Executive Summary

"Advocacy is the action of delivering an argument to gain commitment from political and social leaders and to prepare a society for a particular issue" (DE JONG 2003). Advocacy involves the selection and organisation of information to create a convincing argument, and its delivery through various interpersonal and media channels (e. g. public speaking, project visits, petitions, engaging celebrities, radio and newspaper). Here, we will focus on one of the essentials of advocacy: influencing and involving important leaders, because political support together with support from community leaders and religious leaders can give a water-related project or campaign a powerful boost (SCHAAP & VAN STEENBERGEN 2001).

Advocacy as a Tool to Involve Leaders on All Levels

Creating awareness and gaining the commitment of decision-makers for a social cause is very important to influence policies and practices that affect the lives of people – particularly the disadvantaged (UN-WATER 2009). Therefore, the goal of advocacy is to make the issue in concern a political priority and to achieve change in policy and practice. For example, local communities may not be aware of a change in an important water or sanitation policy and therefore may not be claiming the rights to which they are entitled, in which case advocacy work could be directed at changing levels of understanding about existing policy (WATERAID & WSSCC 2003).

To gain the commitment of leaders, advocacy work consists of a set of tools including meetings with the relevant decision makers, public speaking and involving the media to reach the general public.

In the first instance, advocacy may be carried out by key people in international and national agencies, as well as special ambassadors, but is gradually taken over by people in regional and local leadership positions, local NGOs and by the print (e.g. posters and flyers) and electronic media (DE JONG 2003).

Why Should You Try to Influence Leaders?

"Strategic networks and involvement of political, religious and local leaders are basic requirements for a successful project, because leaders can play a role by openly supporting the process in the media, by changing certain water-management policies, by emphasising the topic in meetings with other leaders, or by addressing communities directly" (SCHAAP & VAN STEENBERGEN 2001).The involvement of leaders will increase public attention to the water and sanitation topic and it will also influence social norms directly. Community norms and values can change through the support of leading community figures for certain measures. There is a need to involve those leaders who are especially regarded as credible, trustworthy and popular among the public (SCHAAP & VAN STEENBERGEN 2001).

 

 Involving leaders: In order to raise awareness of the potential to use used toilet bags as fertilizer, demonstration plots were planted in Mymensingh Pourashava, Bangladesh. Left picture: a community leader from Kalibari community helps plant a lemon tree. Right picture: The Mayor of Mymensingh Pourashava speaking to the Malgudam community after creating the demonstration plot. Source: SuSanA on Flickr (2009) 

Importance of Political and Religious Leaders

The decisions on water management and sanitation development objectives and the allocation of human and financial resources are often taken by or influenced by political leaders in governments at all levels. These leaders must recognise the role that water and sanitation plays in attaining their objectives (DE GOOIJER & NEWTON 2009). And one should not forget the direct influence that politicians have on their constituencies. They are well known, have all the media coverage they want and are often taken quite seriously because of the status of their position. There is a need to get politicians personally involved in the resolution of serious water and sanitation related problems (SCHAAP & VAN STEENBERGEN 2001).

Religious leaders are crucial when it comes to circulating the messages concerning water and sanitation-related issues by many aspects (WINNPENNY & DE GOOIJER 2009): They have the ability to influence the attitudes of their constituents towards water, the moral choices they make, and their behaviour – all of which affect the use and management of water. In addition, they can motivate and mobilise groups of people in different roles for common purposes and help educating the young about the critical role played by water in achieving social and development goals. Moreover, they can act as role models by using water prudently and efficiently or by adopting certain hygiene measures in their own religious communities and institutions. See also water sanitation and culture.

Things to Consider Before Applying Advocacy Tools

"In some countries, particularly those with a repressive regime, speaking out on advocacy issues may endanger personal safety, either of those who speak or of those on whose behalf they are speaking" (WATERAID & WSSCC 2003). This must be taken into serious consideration when planning advocacy work, and the consent of those who may be at risk obtained before any action is taken. Working in alliance with other organisations can help in these circumstances to reduce the risk to individuals. Another alternative is to work anonymously through external organisations (for example those with an international profile), which can put pressure on decision-makers without endangering themselves (WATERAID & WSSCC 2003).

Concerning religious issues, it is important to be careful when involving religious leaders. The high regard in which the community holds them may also be an obstacle if they do not want to cooperate with you.

Common Tools Used for Advocacy:

 

  • Interpersonal meetings are the most effective and participatory advocacy tools, but with limited human resources, the potential number of people reached is limited and further expansion is costly
  • Lobbying (working closely with key individuals in political and governmental structures) to influence the policy process
  • Meetings, usually as part of a lobbying strategy
  • Negotiation, to reach a common position
  • Combining of lobbying with communication instruments such as press conferences and press releases
  • Project visits, to demonstrate good practice
  • Reaching the public via newsletters, e-mail and internet, flyers, petitions or canvassing to influence leaders
  • The media reach the general public and contribute to setting the agenda for politicians and policy makers. See also media campaigns for posters and flyers, internet and email, radio, or video

 

It is important to understand that advocacy should be a part of a wider communication process that encompasses other awareness raising instruments. On its own, advocacy cannot achieve much. Consider the other awareness raising and communication tools in the SSWM Toolbox to achieve your objectives (DE JONG 2003).

Planning the Advocacy Work

Effective advocacy work needs good planning. One way to organise your work is the advocacy planning cycle, provided by (UN-WATER 2009) which shows the most important steps in planning and implementing advocacy work.

 

 The advocacy planning cycle. Source: UN-WATER (2009) 

 

  1. Identifying the issues: what do we want to change? Start to identify which water issues are most pressing in your local and national context.
  2. Analysis: what do we already know and what information can we use? To ensure credibility among your target groups, you ought to be familiar with more than just the key facts. You might use the SSWM-toolbox to gather more information. For regional activities, you will however need specific information on your region including the special circumstantial problems people are facing. Local data will be most persuasive to local media and politicians.
  3. Setting objectives: what are our specific advocacy objectives? Advocacy objectives should be SMART:
    • Specific (what exactly do you want to happen?)
    • Measurable (will you know when you’ve achieved them?)
    • Achievable (is it possible to achieve them given your resources and time?)
    • Relevant (are they relevant to all stakeholders and the real problem?)
    • Time-bound (by when do you want them to happen?)
  4. Identifying the targets: whom do we want to influence? Whom are we addressing: Local or national politicians? Local religious leaders? Community residents? Municipal authorities? The better you know and define your targets, the better you will be able to select the most appropriate way to reach and influence them.
  5. Identifying allies: with whom can we work? Approach a wide range of partners with an outline of activities and events to discuss, and agree upon their involvement and support. Discuss their participation by focusing on their self-interest and by stressing that supporting a good cause can increase their visibility in the community or with the general public (see also participatory planning).
  6. Selecting the tools and developing the messages: how can we best reach our targets? There are numerous communication tools that can be used for good advocacy work (see common tools above). Try to be action and solution-oriented: besides pointing out the various water-related problems, stress as well how exactly improving the situation is achievable in your local or regional context.
  7. Monitoring & Evaluation: how can we measure the impact of our activities? To monitor and evaluate advocacy work, you need to have set clear objectives at the outset, which will serve as yardsticks against which to measure success. During the planning phase, you define your indicators for success for all your objectives. Indicators should be drawn up for all aspects of the work: inputs (time, resources); outputs (meetings, visits, reports); outcomes, which are the result of your outputs (press coverage, debates in parliament, changes in policy); and impact (e.g. the effect of policy change on the lives of poor communities) (UN-WATER 2009) (see also monitoring and evaluation). 

Applicability

Generally, advocacy work is applicable at different levels, from the local community level to the national and international level. In some cases, an increase of change at the local level may even lead to a corresponding change in policy at national level.

Because the media play an important role for setting the agenda for politicians and decision makers and for reaching the public, advocacy might be easier to apply in regions with a well functioning media network and communication channels (especially the internet).

In some countries or regions, speaking out on advocacy issues (e. g. delicate political or religious aspects) may endanger personal safety, either of those who speak or of those on whose behalf they are speaking.

Advantages

  • Advocacy can lead to a change in important water-management policies
  • Involvement of leaders can boost campaigns and other awareness raising tools
  • Leader support can change community norms and values for certain measures
  • Religious leaders might help to decrease traditional barriers
  • Involvement of leaders will increase public attention to the water and sanitation topic

Disadvantages

  • Effectiveness and impact often hard to measure
  • In countries with a repressive regime, speaking out on advocacy issues may endanger personal safety
  • Advocacy on higher levels (regional/national) is time-consuming and expensive
  • Focus on political leaders and government may lack of real grounding in community settings

References Library

GOOIJER, G. de; NEWTON, J. (Editor) (2009): Messages for Parliamentarians. The United Nations World Water Development Report 3. (= Water in a Changing World. Messages Series). Perugia: United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

JONG, D. de (2003): Advocacy for Water, Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene. Thematic Overview Paper. Delft: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. URL [Accessed: 12.04.2010]. PDF

SCHAAP, W.; STEENBERGEN, F. van (2001): Ideas for Water Awareness Campaigns. Stockholm: The Global Water Partnership. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

UN-WATER (Editor) (2009): Advocacy for Sanitation: A Brief Guide. New York: UN-Water. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

WATERAID & WSSCC (Editor) (2003): Advocacy Sourcebook. A Guide to Advocacy for WSSCC co-ordinators working on the WASH campaign. WATERAID & WSSCC . URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

WINPENNY, J. ; GOOIJER, G. de (Editor) (2009): Messages for Religious Leaders. The United Nations World Water Development Report 3. (= Water in a Changing World. Messages Series). Perugia: United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

JONG, D. de (2003): Advocacy for Water, Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene. Thematic Overview Paper. Delft: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. URL [Accessed: 12.04.2010]. PDF

This thematic overview paper of the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre gives access to the main principles of advocacy for water, environmental sanitation and hygiene, based on worldwide experiences and views of leading practitioners. Furthermore, this document provides direct links to more detailed explanations and documented experiences of critical aspects of the topic on the Internet.


Reference icon

SCHAAP, W.; STEENBERGEN, F. van (2001): Ideas for Water Awareness Campaigns. Stockholm: The Global Water Partnership. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This document includes a section for advocacy, presenting an overview of many ideas and initiatives with emphasis on practical suggestions and clues. It is not a guidebook for planning your advocacy work but it might be a great knowledge source and starting point for your activities.


Reference icon

UN-WATER (Editor) (2009): Advocacy for Sanitation: A Brief Guide. New York: UN-Water. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This 4-page advocacy guide has been developed to inform and support the planning and conducting of advocacy work for sanitation in a country or region. Although it focuses on sanitation, this document presents a sound general overview of the key steps and elements for planning advocacy activities.


Reference icon

WATERAID (Editor) (2007): The Advocacy Sourcebook. London: WaterAid. URL [Accessed: 12.04.2010]. PDF

This book provides detailed information about drawing up advocacy action plans that aim to improve the water supply and sanitation situation. The document presents concrete examples of advocacy work in practice and it provides many tools, tables and diagrams, which advocacy workers may like to reproduce, adapt or distribute for their own advocacy campaign.


Reference icon

WATERAID & WSSCC (Editor) (2003): Advocacy Sourcebook. A Guide to Advocacy for WSSCC co-ordinators working on the WASH campaign. WATERAID & WSSCC . URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This guide for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all (WASH) campaign offers practical guidance on advocacy work related to water and sanitation. It aims to explain the different advocacy tools, provide practical examples of advocacy work, and provide information on key policy actors and processes and how to influence them at local, national and international levels.


Reference icon

MUENCH, E. von (Editor); INGLE, R. (Editor); MBALO, D (Editor); KAPPAUF, L. (Editor) (2012): Compilation of 13 Factsheets on Key Sustainable Sanitation Topics. Eschborn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. URL [Accessed: 07.05.2012]. PDF

This factsheet book is a compilation of 13 thematic factsheets which were produced by the eleven SuSanA working groups (WGs): WG1 - Capacity development; WG 2 - Finance and economics; WG 3 - Renewable energies and climate change; WG 4 - Sanitation systems, technology options, hygiene and health; WG 5 - Food security and productive sanitation systems; WG 6 - Cities and planning; WG 7 - Community, rural and schools (with gender and social aspects); WG 8 - Emergency and reconstruction situations; WG 9 - Sanitation as a business and public awareness; WG 10 - Operation and maintenance; WG 11 - Groundwater Protection. What makes these factsheets special is that they are multi-authored by people from different organisations and by free-lance consultants. The factsheets were developed in a long process involving many discussions and review loops which were mostly carried out in public, e.g. at working group meetings, with the working group mailing lists or, since July 2011, also in the open SuSanA discussion forum.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

SCHAAP, W.; STEENBERGEN, F. van (2001): Ideas for Water Awareness Campaigns. Stockholm: The Global Water Partnership. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This document includes a section for advocacy, presenting an overview of many ideas and initiatives with emphasis on practical suggestions and clues. It is not a guidebook for planning your advocacy work but it might be a great knowledge source and starting point for your activities.


Reference icon

WATERAID (Editor) (2007): The Advocacy Sourcebook. London: WaterAid. URL [Accessed: 12.04.2010]. PDF

This book provides detailed information about drawing up advocacy action plans that aim to improve the water supply and sanitation situation. The document presents concrete examples of advocacy work in practice and it provides many tools, tables and diagrams, which advocacy workers may like to reproduce, adapt or distribute for their own advocacy campaign.


Awareness Raising Material Library

Reference icon

WINPENNY, J. ; GOOIJER, G. de (Editor) (2009): Messages for Religious Leaders. The United Nations World Water Development Report 3. (= Water in a Changing World. Messages Series). Perugia: United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This 4-page factsheet provides key messages for religious leaders, based on the findings of the United Nations World Water Development Report 3 (WWDR-3). Useful for your advocacy work to ensure this group of actors understand how their decisions affect water use.


Reference icon

GYAWALI, D. (2009): Messages for Political Leaders and Cabinet Ministers. The United Nations World Water Development Report 3. (= Water in a Changing World. Messages Series). Perugia: United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This 4-page factsheet provides key messages for political leaders, based on the findings of the United Nations World Water Development Report 3 (WWDR-3). Useful for your advocacy work to ensure this group of actors understand how their decisions affect water use.


Reference icon

GOOIJER, G. de; NEWTON, J. (Editor) (2009): Messages for Parliamentarians. The United Nations World Water Development Report 3. (= Water in a Changing World. Messages Series). Perugia: United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012]. PDF

This 4-page factsheet provides key messages for parliamentarians, based on the findings of the United Nations World Water Development Report 3 (WWDR-3). Useful for your advocacy work to ensure this group of actors understand how their decisions affect water use.


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