Obstacle 5 – lack of a common understanding of advocacy campaigns

This is another classic. With almost all of the advocacy campaigns consultancy work that I have done over the past 10 years or so this issue comes up. I find myself saying I really don’t mind what your definition of advocacy campaigning is, but I wish you had a common one. A definition that the communications, research, policy, marketing, fundraising or supporter relations people can all sign up to. Is that really so hard?

I hope that this website might be helpful in encouraging organisations to develop their own definition (and name) for advocacy, campaigning, advocacy campaigning or whatever they feel comfortable with.

Yet I have also seen that while it may be relatively easy to agree a theoretical definition of advocacy campaigns, the real problems begin to emerge when real advocacy campaigning begins to happen. I have heard senior people say that while they supported advocacy campaigns, they had no idea that it would involve doing x or y activity.

Here I think a working theory of change can be important in selling advocacy campaigns within an organisation. A shared definition is important – maybe something around a problem, a solution and then trying to influence the person with the power to make the desired change. But then a theory of change can begin to tell the story of how you want to see the advocacy campaign unfold.

I do think that a combination of a clear message (problem + solution) together with a powerful future story (or theory of change) for how you want to see your campaign develop can be incredibly helpful in securing internal understanding and support (and indeed for attracting new allies and supporters).

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