Introducing international development management
Introducing international development management

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Introducing international development management

3.8 The development manager as advocate: making a case

Advocacy work has become the latest enthusiasm for most agencies involved in international aid and development. Over the past decade NGOs have dedicated more resources and given a higher priority to influencing and advocacy work at all levels (local, national and international).

(Coates and David, 2002, p. 530)

I cannot hope to do justice to the range and complexity of activities that make up this ‘latest enthusiasm’. But I hope you will get a sense of both the passion and the politics that are at the heart of advocacy.

The reasons for the heightened significance of advocacy are many and complex, but they include the sense that projects have failed to deliver development in the anticipated fashion, and a consequent interest in work that explicitly addresses the structural causes of poverty and that seeks change at the level of policy. These two concerns, to work on causes of poverty and to change policy, are reflected in the following definitions of advocacy:

Seeking with, and on behalf of, the poor to address underlying causes of poverty, bring justice, and support good development through influencing the policies and practices of the powerful.

(Tearfund, 2002)

Advocacy is speaking out against injustice and influencing decision makers to change policies that cause inequality and suffering … What the process involves is not defined, but it must include education of either the powerful or the powerless.

(World Vision International, 2006)

Various typologies have been devised to convey the many ways in which these concerns are turned into the practice of advocacy. Below we present two, both to convey the range and diversity and to enable you to identify and get in mind examples of advocacy with which you are familiar.

Table 2: Three approaches to advocacy

Approach to advocacyAdvocacy FOR those affected by a situationAdvocacy WITH those affected by a situationAdvocacy BY those affected by a situation
Advocacy work done byProfessionals, NGOsA mixture of professionals, NGOs, local community groupsLocal community workers
Main objectives for interventionChange in law, policy or practiceIncreased access to decision-making; change in law, policy or practice; build advocacy capacity of those affected by situationIncrease in awareness of advocacy possibilities and capacity to do advocacy
CharacteristicsIssues often identified by outsiders; usually targeted at official decision-makersIssues identified by community; shared planning, resources and action; outside organisers mobilise capacityIssues identified by community; learning by involvement; may have significant outside input at start
AdvantagesQuick access to decision-makers; good access to information about wider contextIncrease access of poor to decision-makers; advocacy skills and capacity developedEmpowering – poor see themselves as agents of change; sustainable; can correct power imbalance
DisadvantagesCould strengthen existing power structures; may not increase the capacity of local groups to actNGO often in control and sets agenda; slower due to need for agreement between all partiesAccess to fewer resources and information; risk of revenge; policy change may take longer
(Tearfund, 2002, Advocacy Toolkit) ©
Tearfund (2002), ‘Advocacy Toolkit: Understanding Advocacy’

You will notice that judgments are being made here, about advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. That is a reminder that judgments have to be made over the type of advocacy that is appropriate, a subject of interest throughout Section 3, and one we will focus on at the end. You will also notice something of the politics of advocacy, politics both in terms of relations between those involved in the advocacy and in terms of impact on policy. The latter is taken up in the next typology.

Table 3: Framework for understanding possible outcomes and impact of advocacy and campaigning work

Dimension of workIntermediate objectivesLonger-term objectives
1. Policy changeIncreased dialogue; raised profile of issue; changed opinion (whose?); changed rhetoric (in public/private); change in written publicationsChanged policy; change in legislation; change in resource allocation; policy/legislation change implemented; (and in the very long term) positive change in people's lives as a result of the policy/legislation change
2. Strengthening civil society by working with individual organisations and networksChange in individual members' skills, capacity, knowledge and effectiveness? Change in individual civil groups' capacity, organisational skills, effectiveness? Greater synergy of aims/activities in networks/movements; change in collaboration, trustor unity of civil society groupsIncreased effectiveness of civil society work; civil groups active in influencing decision makers in ways that will benefit poor people; civil groups monitoring implementation of policies/programmes; partnerships and networks effective and sustainable
3. Supporting people-centred policy makingGreater awareness of individual rights and the power systems that withhold rights; change in local people's skills, capacity and knowledge to mobilise on their own behalves; increased reporting of rights violations; existence of system to monitor rights; claims made by CBOs for enforcing rightsImproved access to basic rights such as health, housing, water, food, non-discrimination
4. Enlarging democratic space or the space in which civil society groups can effectively operate in societyGreater freedom of expression; greater acceptance/ recognition of civil groups; existence of forums for civil groups to input into a wide range of decisions; increased legitimacy of civil society groupsIncreased participation of civil society groups in influencing decisions; change in accountability and transparency of public institutions
(Chapman, J., 2002, Monitoring and evaluating advocacy) ©
Chapman, J. (2002), ‘Monitoring and evaluating advocacy’, PLA Notes, Vol. 43, pp. 48–52, International Institute for Environment and Development.

You will by now possibly be overwhelmed by the range of undertakings that can be described as advocacy and by the number of outcomes and impacts that are intended. So it would be worthwhile to stand back and consider what holds all these diverse types of advocacy together. If one thing unites them it is that they all entail a process of engagement between the advocates and decision-making agencies. That is at the heart of advocacy.

The skill we looked at earlier, the skill of investigation, is fundamental to the success or failure of this process of engagement. In making a case, there is a need to find out as much as possible about who the people are who have power to make decisions about that case, how those with the power to make decisions might react to the case, what arguments are likely to appeal to them, and how they are best engaged with. There is also a need to find out as much as possible about what change is needed, why it is needed, what is most likely to work, and what the impact of a particular approach may be, before seeking to make the case and act on it.

It will be clear that investigation is not just about gathering knowledge. It also has a strongly political function. It is about building relationships and testing people out, in order to influence them and bring about change in policy and practice.

Mayer (2007) makes two important points about the politics of presenting evidence: Although the concept of ‘evidence-based policy making’ sounds logical and non-contentious, the implication that by having the evidence the ‘right’ answer will emerge can conceal many value judgments, political preferences and assumptions. This is because many questions about ‘what evidence’ and ‘what to do when evidence is lacking’ demand social, economic and political judgments to be made. While evidence alone may not be the answer, good quality evidence used in the right context can help gain influence for a position and, most importantly, give it the necessary substance to gather support. (Mayer, 2007, p. 254)

In short, evidence will not ‘simply speak for itself’ (p. 272) (or simply will not speak for itself), but it is worth making it ‘speak’ as persuasively as possible.

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