Self-help group members pass their savings to the group leader during a weekly meeting. Photo: Cally Spittle/Tearfund

From: Footsteps 93

Making the most of what we have, sharing it and increasing it

One way of mobilising resources is to work in partnership with local decision-makers. Local government often has money to spend in the local area, and communities may wish to influence how the money is spent. The following guidelines are for when we arrange a meeting with a decision-maker, such as a local government official, business leader or religious leader, and we want to develop a relationship with them in which we can make requests and offer encouragement and support.

To view this article as a pdf click here (PDF 503 KB).

Before the meeting

Think about who you will meet with

Plan who will attend the meeting with you

  • Make sure the people going will represent the community. Consider taking someone who will be directly affected by the action you are asking for and can speak about it clearly.
  • Do any other local groups have the same questions? If so, consider inviting them to the meeting too.

Arrange the meeting

  • Contact the person to arrange a meeting. If possible, ask someone known to the person to introduce you. 
  • If you do not have a way of getting in touch directly, write a brief formal letter requesting a meeting. 
  • Confirm the date and time of the meeting, asking for confirmation in writing. Make a phone call or visit the office the day before to say you are looking forward to the meeting and to check again that the person is expecting you at the time agreed.

Plan how to present your requests at the meeting

  • If there is more than one of you, agree who is going to say what (for example, who will speak first and who will share the main messages) and who will take notes. 
  • Decide what you will ask the decision-maker to do. For example, will you ask the person to review the situation? Or pass on your requests to someone else?
  • Make sure that you are asking for something that the person (or the department he or she represents) is able to give.
  • Think about what arguments the decision-maker will find persuasive and be ready to use them.
  • What questions do you expect you might be asked? Make sure you have worked out your responses to possible questions.

Logistics

  • If more than one of you is going to be involved in the meeting, arrange for all involved to have a meeting beforehand to plan how you will present your requests.
  • Prepare materials to bring to the meeting if appropriate (documents to discuss, petitions to present etc), making sure your main points are presented clearly.
  • Check how much time you are likely to have, and plan how you will close the meeting quickly if your time is cut short.
  • Allow plenty of time to get to the meeting so that you will not be late.

During the meeting

Introductions

Keeping on track

  • Have a clear, achievable goal. 
  • Know your main points well and present your requests or concerns clearly. 
  • Ask questions if you do not understand what the decision-maker is saying.
  • Focus on your most important concerns first and leave smaller issues until the end.
  • Aim to build confidence and trust. Give encouraging feedback where possible. Do not accuse or criticise the decision-maker – try to see him or her as a partner or friend, rather than as an enemy. 
  • Always be respectful, even if the meeting is going badly and the decision-maker is negative or uncooperative.
  • Summarise progress at various points and say what has been agreed at the end.

After the meeting


Adapted from the forthcoming second edition of Tearfund’s Advocacy toolkit (ROOTS 1 and 2) by Joanna Watson.

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