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Tools and guides

The advocacy cycle

If advocacy is to be effective, it needs to be planned well

2022

Illustration of a group discussion including a woman wearing a light green headscarf writing on a piece of paper, two children waving their hands in the air and an elderly man sitting down with a walking stick
A mixed group of smartly-dressed men and woman in Uganda sitting on the ground outside, partly under the shade of a tree

From: Community-led advocacy – Footsteps 118

Tools and ideas that communities can use to challenge injustice and change difficult situations

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If advocacy is to be successful, it needs to be planned well. The basic procedure is the same for all types of advocacy and it can be helpful to picture this as a five-step cycle. 

Sometimes the steps will be followed in order; other times they will run in parallel. It is important to remain flexible and be willing to adapt to changing circumstances. 

  • Step 1: Know what you want to change 

    Think about the root causes of the unjust or difficult situation. Why do you and others want to try to change things? Is it possible to change the situation through advocacy? Do not try to change too many things at once – choose one main issue to focus on.

  • Step 2: Gather information

    Find out as much as possible about the issue by gathering and analysing evidence about it. This may involve making visits, talking with people and carrying out research to find details of:

    • the issue and the problems it is causing
    • possible solutions that could be proposed
    • decision-makers who could help change the situation, such as local government officials
    • opportunities for influencing decision-makers such as public meetings, newsletters or conversations with personal contacts
    • potential supporters and champions
    • people who might be against the changes you are proposing 
    • risks and advantages of taking action, or of not taking action.
  • Step 3: Develop an action plan

    This should include:

    • the main problem
    • the objectives of your advocacy work
    • the methods and activities that you are planning to use
    • your advocacy messages, making sure they are right for the audience
    • who is involved, and what their responsibilities are
    • the time schedule
    • details of how you will measure the results.
  • Step 4: Take action

    The best action to take will vary greatly, depending on the culture and the social and political context. It may include lobbying, campaigning and media messages. Showing a willingness to be part of the solution can also help. 

  • Step 5: Monitor and evaluate your progress

    Throughout each stage, regularly monitor, review and evaluate your progress, making changes to your plans if necessary.

    It may be helpful to make a list of things that have been successful, and the things that have not gone well. For example:

    Successes

    • clear responsibilities
    • realistic objectives
    • opportunities to talk to local government officials

    Failures

    • not enough supporters
    • unsympathetic reporting in the media
    • not enough information

If further action is needed, consider repeating the cycle and working out a new strategy.

Adapted from Tearfund’s Advocacy toolkit (available free of charge).

Additional resources

  • Advocacy in the digital age - A set of online resources exploring how to use the internet and mobile phones as part of the advocacy cycle

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