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Major Advocacy Strategies

Often citizens and their organizations use combinations of different strategies to achieve their advocacy goals. Generally speaking, these advocacy and empowerment strategies can be grouped into six categories based on their primary purpose or core activity. They include the following1):

Building the Constituency for Change, a Core Strategy

This is an advocacy core strategy without which we cannot claim that what we do is advocacy in our own definition. Constituency building’s main purpose is to help people feel their power and their ability to bring about desired change. Through building a constituency, advocacy groups and organizations make themselves accountable to their constituencies, and help these constituencies hold government and public decision makers accountable to the general public. Constituency building takes place through raising political awareness, organizing and mobilizing those affected by the problem/issue, or are interested in it, to get involved and take action. As a core strategy, it must happen together with any other selected advocacy strategy.

Education Strategies:

Main purpose is to educate and raise critical consciousness; involves strengthening NGOs and POs to express themselves, providing information or collaborating in gathering data, analysis, and developing policy alternatives.

Co-Operation Strategies

Main purpose is to build collaboration between community groups, the state and/or business sectors to disseminate innovations, provide state services, or improve local infrastructure.

Persuasion Strategies

Main purpose is to use information, analysis and citizen mobilization to press for change. This strategy often involves lobbying and using the mass media to influence policy makers and public opinion. Strong communication and negotiation skills and the use of numbers to demonstrate clout are keys to success using this strategy.

Pilot or Model Programs

Where it is difficult to influence the public agenda, a successful model intervention can demonstrate to government a better way to solve problems. The pilot program could be in one or more of the areas in which the issue exists with some variance.

Litigation Strategies

Main purpose is to promote social and economic change by using the court system to test and challenge laws and institutions.

Confrontation Strategies

Main purpose is to use direct action to challenge and draw attention to negative policy impacts and to bring greater pressure for political change than in other strategies; can involve non-violent or violent approaches to direct action. We strongly recommend that groups do not use violent approaches to defend their causes. Violence, in our opinion, would lead to spiral violence on all sides. In addition, if the public perceives your group as the group that initiated violence, the public will feel threatened and lose trust in you. The Albert Einstein Institution on Non-Violence Struggle identifies 198 methods of Nonviolent Action, which can mostly be categorized as confrontational, but nonviolent methods that activists can us. You can learn more about these methods in the Institution website,

Good Cop – Bad Cop

In this strategy, one of the groups takes the role of the good party that seeks to collaborate with the decision makers. At the same time, another group assumes the role of the bad party that names and shames the decision makers. In other words, the former plays the role of the good cop, and the latter plays the role of the bad cop. If this is coordinated between these two groups, they need to be fairly cautious in their cooperating together. Any leakage of such cooperation would discredit the efforts of the “good cop” group.

1) Adapted from VeneKlasen, Lisa; and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of People, Power and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation, Chapter 3. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, USA.

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