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Why we do advocacy

Tearfund is involved in advocacy work because it:

  • challenges power structures and systems of injustice
  • provides long-term solutions to poverty and injustice
  • views people as agents of change in their own communities

Advocacy never just raises awareness of a problem. It always seeks to change the policies, practices, systems, structures, decisions and attitudes that are causing the problem in favour of people living in poverty and injustice.

Tearfund staff and partners have been involved in advocacy initiatives over many years, at the local level, the national level and the international level.

Find out more about Tearfund’s global advocacy and campaigning work 

How to do advocacy

Advocacy work includes many different activities such as lobbying, campaigning, mobilisation, education, research, prayer and networking. It can be undertaken alone, with a group of people or as part of a network. It can be spontaneous or carefully planned, a one-off intervention or an ongoing process. Anyone can undertake advocacy work – it does not need to be left to professionals or experts.
It is wise to do advocacy using a specific approach suitable for the context. Advocacy can be done in the following ways:

  • using human rights
  • by tracking government budgets
  • using media
  • in difficult political contexts 
  • using the Internet and mobile phones
  • as part of church and community mobilisation (CCM)
  • by building social movements

Our 'Why advocate?' guides provide advice for specific areas of work: climate change, disaster risk reduction, governance and corruption, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and waste and the circular economy.

Doing advocacy using human rights

Human rights can be used as a basis for development by calling for existing resources to be shared more equally, and assisting people living in poverty to assert their rights to those resources. This contrasts with using human needs as a basis for development, which focuses on securing additional resources for delivery of services to people living in poverty.

Human rights can be used in individual cases of human rights abuses, in collective actions, and as the underpinning basis for any advocacy project or programme. 

Learn more about using a rights-based approach from a Christian perspective

Doing advocacy using budget tracking

Budget tracking is increasingly being used as a development tool to ensure that government funds are used effectively and efficiently, and are not lost to corruption or siphoned off. Budget tracking helps governments, citizens and civil society organisations ensure that allocated public resources reach their intended beneficiaries. 

Budget tracking fits well with advocacy as it assists civil society in monitoring government spending on specific sectors and/or in tracking implementation of government spending at the local level. It works particularly well with local-level advocacy as it enables communities to influence how the local budget is spent, helping to ensure that the money appointed by local government is used for its intended purpose and spent on issues that need addressing in the community. 

Find out more with our introductory guide to budget tracking 

Church and advocacy

It is part of the mission of the church to undertake advocacy through speaking out against injustice, defending the cause of people living in poverty, holding those in power to account, and empowering people to speak out for themselves. Its ultimate aim is to bring and demonstrate the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God.

Tearfund’s Advocacy toolkit covers the biblical basis for advocacy, with notes for facilitators, handouts and exercises suitable for training workshops or study groups. The toolkit also addresses common objections to church involvement in advocacy work and offers biblical responses.

A female activist stands outside homes in a narrow street in Brazil, a metal sun bed beside her

Get our Advocacy toolkit

Comprehensive training material on the theory and practice of advocacy

View and download

Strengths and challenges for the church in advocacy

Many churches are already doing advocacy, even if they do not use that term. For many, standing up for the oppressed and for the vulnerable is a natural thing to do. The church can play a number of strategic roles in the work of advocacy:

  • Church leaders can influence others
  • Churches can mobilise large numbers of others to pray and take action
  • Churches have credibility with many national governments and can be a trusted voice on moral issues
  • Churches can link to wider networks

Local church congregations bring particular strengths to advocacy, such as local information-gathering, sharing information at community level, and the ability to act as peacebuilders.

Church structures such as denominations also bring particular strengths and are suited to playing particular roles. For example, they can amplify messages through the media, act as international advocates, represent the views of the church and collaborate in wider alliances.

There are also challenges for the church in engaging with advocacy:

  • Church leaders can be politically compromised
  • Churches can lack specialist knowledge
  • Churches can lack capacity in terms of people, time and resources
  • Churches can be vulnerable to state persecution
  • Some church leaders may resist church involvement in advocacy based on their theological understanding of the role of the church in the world
  • Churches can suffer from a lack of unity locally and at the denominational level 

Church and community mobilisation (CCM) advocacy

Tearfund has been implementing the church and community mobilisation (CCM) process for more than 20 years in at least 25 countries. Through CCM, churches inspire and empower citizens to identify needs in their community and to mobilise their own resources to address them. 

In a handful of countries, Tearfund’s church partners have introduced advocacy into the CCM process – an approach now known as CCM advocacy. 

Watch this film to find out what CCM advocacy looks like in Uganda and Bolivia. 

Through CCM advocacy, local churches mobilise their communities to influence the decisions, policies and practices of powerful local decision-makers, with the aim of bringing about good governance, using social accountability tools. The empowered communities engage in local-level advocacy on issues they have identified. They draw down local government resources, hold local government officials accountable and gain access to the essential services they need.  

The church’s involvement in advocacy, like the church and community mobilisation process itself, broadens the vision of the church.

Explore our resources and research on CCM advocacy 

Building movements for advocacy

The vision for Tearfund’s global mobilising and advocacy work is a world where all people not only have their basic needs met, but are able to experience life in all its fullness. A world where relationships are restored with God, with each other and with creation itself. But we know we cannot do this by ourselves. As a result of this, our global mobilising work focuses on efforts to build movements for change. We are working towards an economy that enables everyone to have their basic needs met, ensures we all live within our environmental limits and keeps inequality from getting out of hand.

Learn more about how to start a movement:

There are already many examples of individuals and communities who are living differently and campaigning for change – from communities in Malawi fighting for a ban on single-use plastic, to movements of Christians in Brazil who are lobbying politicians for environmental justice.

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