Lessons learned from a three years stakeholder engagement process, supported by UNDP and Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Do you want to be an advocacy professional?
In 2018, CAP! collected responses from about 50 Francophone Advocacy Professionals. Below are what we would describe as a “typical” profile of an Advocacy Professional, based off of the survey.
A typical profile of an Advocacy Professional
Typically, it is a 30-year-old woman, who studied political science and works in an international NGO with more than 100 employees, on health-related issues. She has been in this position for less than 5 years – and yes, it is true that unlike English-speaking NGOs, French-speaking NGOs have established advocacy directions more recently. Previously, apart from campaigning NGOs, the job tasks linked to advocacy were more associated with the communications departments in French NGOs!
Her title? It varies: Advocacy Manager, Advocacy Officer, Campaign Manager, Strategic Partnerships Manager, Advocacy and Communication Officer… Advocacy professionals wear many hats!
Which training should one follow to become an Advocacy Professional?
47% of respondents studied Political Science, 35% Sociology, Anthropology and Development Studies, and 25% Law. A clear trend is found towards the Social Sciences, which is linked to this type of professional sphere: NGOs, development and international relations. Despite the development of the advocacy profession, there are very few training courses which specifically target these professionals. Some Masters, notably in schools of communication (from which only 6% of respondents to this study), are now targeting "Influential Communication" and "Public Communication.” However, in Law, some programs now include a course in "Advocacy Law and Public Affairs.”
Who employs Advocacy Professionals?
Healthcare comes to mind, for causes mostly tied to access to medical access, but the fields vary: Human Rights, International Cooperation, Marginalized Populations, Food, Development, Climate Change. Advocacy officers are really a jack of all trades and change sectors as they please.
Why become an Advocacy Professional?
Generally, advocacy professionals look for a job that has meaning, is ethical, is part of a greater social cause, is something that is in line with their social ideas and values and is dedicated to justice. “I just want to create change…” “What I want to do is change things…” is something we normally hear from these people. They just want things to start moving!
But their skills and their responsibilities are varied (just like the services CAP! offers). One must: analyze, inform, awareness, communicate, research, share information, convince, learn, be in contact with political decision makers & the media, seek and collect interviews, define a strategy, engage with people, write, mobilize, communicate with stakeholders, form alliances; all these responsibilities create their own roles, to say the least.
An important part of the work of an Advocacy Professional is tied to the need to engage different actors to create an impact on society. This work requires the ability to listen, to research, to analyze, and a real understanding of what is at risk for the society and the most vulnerable parts of the population. It also requires the capacity to find creative and practical solutions which will be able to make it through roadblocks and finally create a political change.
What difficulties do they face?
Exciting? For sure. But not easy.
Three main challenges became clear through this survey
Planning your work agenda for a year or more
Being an Advocacy Professional means tackling simple and complex issues that depend on current events. Be ready to face powerful lobbies, contrary financial interests, sometimes a lack of political will, and the constant change in perspective and opinion. It means working in a hurry while developing complex internal positions and mobilizing very diverse actors (who are sometimes in disagreement between each other)! In this constantly changing context, many advocacy professionals say they have difficulty planning their campaign agenda both short and long term. For that, you must remember one thing: Flexibility! Planning and back-planning are essential tools, but you will also need to reassess and adapt them during the year. A tip: the "tree diagrams". When planning your advocacy strategy, consider different scenarios. "If .... then Action 2A; If .... then action 2B". Think about all of your assumptions. CAP! facilitates strategic planning workshops for the public, as well as privately for groups or organizations looking for a more tailored approach to their advocacy efforts. We support the identification of hypotheses and the creation of these “tree-like” scenarios.
Evaluating the impact of your advocacy efforts
The impact assessment in advocacy work is often qualitative, not quantitative. And university training unfortunately does not train for a political impact assessment. However, methodologies exist! It is quite possible to set up a monitoring and evaluation system for advocacy work, as is done in the context of development or humanitarian projects. CAP! offers advanced training specifically on impact assessment on request. To know the next dates, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Achieving a real change and identifying the "successes" of advocacy
Advocacy sometimes can be done in small victories (and its important for staying motivated) but it is mostly targeted towards long term results. Problems are complex and their solutions are often long term: patience, patience! But it is sometimes hard to stay mobilized when the change isn’t happening and lives are depending on it. Just as important, the stake holders are sometimes hard to prioritize: how do you create a hierarchy of humanitarian issues, putting one more important than another? (CAP! has developed tools to help you prioritize in those moments. Contact us to learn more!)
Advocacy Professionals are like “Social Centipedes”
The variety of responsibilities of Advocacy Professions demands that they constantly go back and forth between reality on the ground and in the field, as well as nationally and internationally in the political decision-making spheres. Most of the people who responded to this survey underlined the “lack of understanding of a subject” and “the overly broad scope of tasks to complete” as their primary difficulties during their first year on the job. It was necessary for them to document, to read, to consult different actors, and to become what they describe as “centipedes” – one foot on the ground, one in the research, one in the media, and one with the decision makers.
This is what makes this profession so rich. In one boom, it attracts numerous young people who are concerned with human rights, and social and environmental justice. A lot of people say that they needed to find themselves making a change.
A community of practice? Why not. Within CAP !, we are studying this possibility ... 75% of the respondents to this study expressed their desire to join, on a website or via meetings, an exchange group. The CAP website intends to be the place for such exchanges. Do not hesitate to offer articles and sharing of good practice, the blog is dedicated to you!