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Credibility

Credibility is defined as “the quality of being believable or trustworthy1).” When it comes to advocacy, you should check how believable and trustworthy your organization or network is. If you say something that is very true, but you have not yet built your credibility with the people, or your credibility is questionable for some reason, people will find it hard to pay attention to you, especially if your credibility has been negatively affected for whatever reason.

It is very difficult to build credibility, and, needless to say, it is very easy to damage. Miller (19972)), p. 15, provides the following tips on how to build your credibility.

  • Credibility is reciprocal. Being responsive and accountable to your organization’s constituents (both the affected and the concerned groups) gains the organization considerable legitimacy and credibility in both advocacy and development programs.
  • Promise results that you can achieve. Announcing over ambitious objectives that the organization cannot fulfill decreases the reliability of the organization.
  • Provide information that is supported by evidence or from reliable sources.
  • Associate yourselves with highly respected individuals or organizations.
  • Pay attentions to factors such as age, education, financial transparency, and the perception of being independence, of your doing high quality programs, and of your working on behalf of the public.
  • Maintain clear and ongoing communications with your constituents, and use the appropriate media channels as needed.

Paraphrased from: Miller, Valerie; 1997. Advocacy Sourcebook: Frameworks for Planning, Action, and Reflection. P. 15. Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, USA.

Credibility alone cannot determine whether you should engage in an advocacy campaign. It will only support your advocacy work3). Furthermore, if you do not enjoy credibility in relationship to a cause and your engagement might harm it, you should consider disengaging yourself from that cause. For instance, if you judge that your involvement will, for whatever reason, be interpreted as a trial to promote one of your (or your founder’s) products or services over another one, it might be better for your group to pull out of these efforts to prevent any damage to the cause.

Following are questions adapted from Sprechmann and Pelton (20014)):

CREDIBILITY CHECKLIST

  • Can you, or your colleagues, legitimately speak on behalf of those affected by the issues?
  • Are you, or your colleagues, known and respected by the policy makers involved in the issue?
  • Do you, or your colleagues, have information or expertise that is relevant to the issues?
  • Will the policy makers involved be interested in your opinion or that of your colleagues?
  • Are there people within the country office who can effectively lead an advocacy initiative on the issues you are considering?
  • Are you, or your colleagues, perceived as objective and trustworthy, or politically biased?

CREDIBILITY means that other people trust and value what you have to say.

Sprechmann, Sofia & Pelton, Emily; 2001. Advocacy Tools and Guidelines: Promoting Policy Change; A Resource Manual for CARE Program Managers. P. 11. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, CARE.

1) Credibility. Dictionary.com. WordNet® 2.1. Princeton University. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/credibility (accessed: January 28, 2007).
2) Miller, Valerie; 1997. Advocacy Sourcebook: Frameworks for Planning, Action, and Reflection. P. 15. Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, USA.
3) Sprechmann, Sofia & Pelton, Emily; 2001. Advocacy Tools and Guidelines: Promoting Policy Change; A Resource Manual for CARE Program Managers. P. 12. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, CARE.
4) Ibid, p. 15

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