Going on a fishing trip

I’ve recently been doing some work supporting a group in Kenya to develop an advocacy campaign, and I heard myself encouraging them to go on a fishing trip.

What did I mean by that? Well, we had spent a lot of time thinking about our campaign message, our targets and the realities of the external environment. We had developed some pretty impressive influence trees listing the organisations that we wanted to reach out to in order to build momentum on our issue. But all this had been achieved by talking amongst ourselves.

I have written before about the importance of that great quote “no battleplan ever survives the first contact with the enemy“. I think that it is so relevant for advocacy campaigns. You can develop the best plan, but the first time you have engagement with the real world, you may well learn something new that will change the way that you see your future strategy.

We’d already had some experience of this with some of the conversations that colleagues had been having in Kenya. And we had had a couple of meetings when someone would say something like “I’m really sorry, but I talked to X, and I now realise that I was wrong when I said what I said last time, and I now see the best entry point is …..”

So hence my encouragement for them all to go on some fishing trips. Clearly I don’t mean literally to go on a fishing trip, but they needed to have conversations with some of the key partners and allies, and just see what they come back with, see what intelligence they can glean, see what ideas and feedback they can gain from these conversations. I think that one of the best things that you can do with a theory of change or your future story once you’ve developed it, is to go out and talk to other people and get a sense check – what do other people think, have you missed something?

So I think before you really start running with an advocacy campaign, and once you have your initial plan, you really should think about going on a few fishing trips!

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