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Advocacy Strategic Analysis Tools

Advocacy and the Three Main Sectors: State, Market & Civil Society


A common impression people have is that advocacy is only done by civil society groups and organizations. We argue that this is not necessarily the case. Going back to the examples we used, we probably discussed examples of when advocacy is used to give voice to the voiceless, or those who do not have the power to make the decision. No matter where you are, your efforts can be a just advocacy campaign if they include the basic advocacy elements discussed earlier. To further understand the political arena where decisions are made, we need to see how advocacy is played in the three main sectors: State, Market, and Civil Society. It is helpful to think of these sectors as independent functions – and not people – in any society. Thinking about these sectors as functions is essential as each one of us contributes to and plays a role in the three sectors. One person could be a trader who also does non-business related shopping in the weekend (market functions); works with the government to acquire special permits and also votes for the local and national elections (state functions); and is an active founding member of a business association and a regular volunteer in her children’s schools (civil society).


Note2) chapter_5_sectoral_contributionsto_development_.jpg

Power Analysis at Different Levels

The following tool is adapted from Joseanthony Joseph3) with the aim of assessing and analyzing power in 23 different relationships.

Tools for Analyzing Power Relationships

This exercise helps participants to analyze the power relationships at a range of levels from the local to the national. It helps those involved in advocacy to understand the significance of power (and thus of politics) in all aspects of society. This analysis then forms an important foundation for their advocacy strategy and informs the planning and implementation of their advocacy work.

Part 1: Using the Table below, participants are asked to tick whether each relationship is equal; unequal but free competition; unequal not expected to be equal but can improve; or unequal and unjust.

Part 2: Using the same 23 relationships from the table, participants are then asked to score each relationship from 1 to 10, according to how powerful they feel their organization is to change that power relationship.

Part 3: The results are then analyzed by the group of participants. This analysis may include highlighting relationships which stand out as unequal and examining the causes; considering which relationships have an impact on the organization’s activities; and understanding where the organization’s strengths may lie.

Linkages can be made between relationships that are considered unequal and unjust, which also have a high score in the second exercise; these may form potential areas for organization’s efforts in the future. Even if an organization is powerless in a key area, the understanding of that powerlessness is an important feature of the organization’s planning to ensure that plans are based on a realistic assessment of the situation.

Analyzing Power Relationships Exercise

Equal Unequal, but free competition Unequal, not expected to be equal, but can improve Unequal and unjust
1. Husband-wife
2. Parent-child
3. Male-female
4. Urban-rural
5. Educated-illiterate
6.Race/ethnic/caste/tribal/ language groups
7. Clerics-non clerics
8. Civil society organization-groups they work with
9. Funding agency-partner group
10. Male-female
11. Tribes/clans-non-tribal groups
13.Transnational corporations-consumer
14. Large local company-consumer
15. Small neighbourhood store-consumer
16. Mass media-consumer
17.‘Govt’. in power-citizen
18. Bureaucrat-citizen
19. Judiciary-citizen
20. Enforcement authorities-citizen
21. Another state – your state
22. Coalition of states – your state
23. Regional or global Intergovernmental bodies – your state
24. International financial institutions – your state
25. Other bodies (specify) – your state
Follow up Questions

As described earlier, this tool gives you a quantitative assessment of these power relationships. The group needs to take these numbers and do an in-depth qualitative analysis. Possible question could include:

  • Are there surprises that began to surface as the group went through this analysis?
  • What are the most significant power relationships that the group needs to take into account?
  • Why are these identified relationships shaped in the way they are?
  • How does this analysis impact the work of the group to address the skewed power relationships and the issues it addresses?
  • Other points that the group needs to take into consideration as it crafts the advocacy strategy.

Analyzing the Political Space and Its Impact on Your Advocacy Strategy


One of the strategic analyses that advocacy strategy planning teams often use is an assessment of the external environment and how open it is for advocacy work. This assessment is of great importance as it helps advocacy organizations and groups explicitly articulate and assess their political fears (risks) and hopes as a team before taking any serious actions.

One of the dimensions advocacy groups should assess in the environment where they are working is the available political space. By political space we mean both the ability to express one’s opinion about the prevailing political system and political leadership, and the availability of effective channels to influence the political system. Naturally, some political societies and systems are more open and tolerant to criticism than others. In some countries, for instance, it is acceptable to criticize the prime minister and cabinet ministers, than to criticize the president. In others, it is very sensitive to criticize prevailing ideologies, such as secularism in Turkey, or religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar in Egypt. In addition, often it is very tough to criticize the “Ministry of Defense”, or the “intelligence agency” than many other authorities. In terms of political space, we can divide countries into three main categories: closed, narrow, and open. The following table provides a brief comparison among the different political space (PS) categories:


PS Category Illustrative Characteristics Advocacy Objectives Advocacy Strategies
Closed (e.g. North Korea, Myanmar, Belarus & Syria.) Single party rule; Disagreement with the government is punished; Media is controlled by the state; Interaction with foreigners is risky Provide opportunities for citizens to participate in the decision-making processes in relatively safe areas that authorities support. Cooperate with the authorities in making policies and systems, and providing services in benign areas accepted by authorities, such as getting ready for natural disasters, or organizing a campaign to address a health crisis, e.g. HIV/AIDS.
Narrow (e.g. Egypt, Thailand, and Iran.) Multi-party system; One party prevails; A mix of state-owned and private-owned media; Citizens and media can criticize cabinet ministers and provincial governors; Criticizing heads of state is risky and relatively rare Build up ordinary people’s self-confidence and ability to effectively participate in the policy making processes in several areas that are relatively safe, and establish the principles of participation, transparency and accountability in the decision-making processes. Use legitimate different advocacy strategies, including cooperation with, and confronting authorities as much as people are willing to go. Focus will be on sectoral (health, education, housing, etc.) areas, and/or local areas (e.g. provincial and local levels.)
Open (e.g. France, India, and Canada) Multi-party system; Parties rotate power; Citizens and media can openly criticize the authorities and any official at any level including the head of state. Exercise people’s rights, especially marginalized and disadvantaged ones, in effectively participating in making and monitoring policies at all levels Use all known legitimate and peaceful advocacy strategies that both broaden the space for participation of marginalized groups, and enhancing the democratic and just environment.

The examples provided above are based on current available reports. Closed political space does not only exist at national levels. It sometimes exists in very traditional societies. Women, for instance, are often not allowed to participate in the decision making processes in many societies even if the national political space is narrow or, to go farther, an open one. Some reports came from Iraq that, even though the country is currently in a narrow or even political space, women in some areas cannot participate in the decision making process at any level in their communities. When dealing with these societies, advocacy work should just encourage women to address commonly accepted areas in which women can cooperate with the current leadership to address.

Indicated strategies are only illustrative of what advocacy might do. Some groups might still legitimately take some high-risk measures against closed or narrow political space environments if they accept to take such risks. chapter_5_political_space_analysis.jpg

Advocacy strategy planning should help the organization(s) or groups determine the type of advocacy they need to engage in based on the assessment of the external environment in which they work.

Selecting Your Advocacy Issue


Advocacy organizations and groups are often faced with many problems, and within each problem, there is a number of issues. Needless to say, one organization, or even one coalition, is never able to tackle all problems and issues simultaneously. They need to exercise judgment on which problem to start with. The following tool, Checklist for Choosing a Problem and Issue (adapted from the Midwest Academy), is a useful one in making an educated judgment of the problems/issues that the organization or coalition can/should undertake at a given moment.


A good choice is one that matches most of these criteria. Use this checklist to compare issues or develop your own criteria. A “yes” answer scores “1”. A “no” answer scores “0”. Problems/issues with higher scores have the potential for multiple positive results. (Adapted from Midwest Academy)

Problem/Issue A Problem/Issue B Problem/Issue C Will resolving the problem/issue?
1. Result in a real improvement in people’s lives?
2. Give people a sense of their own power?
3. Build strong lasting organizations and alter the relations of power?
4. Raise awareness about power relations and democratic rights?
5. Be winnable?
6. Be widely felt?
7. Be deeply felt?
8. Be easy to communicate and understand?
9. Provide opportunities for people to learn about and be involved in policies?
10. Have clear advocacy targets?
11. Have a clear time frame?
12. Be non-divisive among your potential constituency?
13. Build accountable leadership?
14. Be consistent with your values and vision?
15. Provide potential for raising funds?
16. Link local issues to global issues and macro policy context?


In your circle of advocacy colleagues, perform the following tasks:

  • Brainstorm the problems/issues you would like to tackle.
  • Make a short list (3 to 4 problems/issues only) of the ones you think you can tackle.
  • Answer the questions you have in the above Checklist For Choosing A Problem And Issue.
  • Does the outcome appeal to your team? Do you feel comfortable tackling the winning issue? If not, eliminate this issue from the brainstormed list and run the same steps again until you reach an issue that you are comfortable addressing.

Triangular Analysis: An Advocacy Strategic Analysis Tool

Having going through the ACT-ON analysis, and selected potential problems/issues to address, we recommend that you perform the Triangular Analysis.

The Triangular Analysis is a tool that Margaret Schuler developed to help people working in advocacy in performing a strategic analysis of the issues they are working on (VeneKlasen & Miller, 2002). We consider the Triangle Analysis one of the most important tools to use throughout our advocacy campaigns.

The Triangular Analysis is a tool that Margaret Schuler developed to help people working in advocacy in performing a strategic analysis of the issues they are working on (VeneKlasen & Miller, 2002). We consider the Triangle Analysis one of the most important tools to use throughout our advocacy campaigns.

The Triangle Analysis looks at three different aspects of the issue we are advocating for: content, structure, and culture.

chapter_5_political_will.jpg As the name implies, you examine the issue from three aspects:

Content – Regulations When your community or group is challenged with a problem, you first need to examine the regulations (or what is referred to here as Content) around this problem/issue. This content may include existing laws, policies, decisions, court sentences, international law, constitution, etc. Careful study of all of these elements is wise before making a hasty judgment on them. Sometimes you will find contradictions between two or more of these elements. In addition, many laws, or decisions that exist actually address the issue, but they may have serious loopholes through which the law becomes ineffective or favors the powerful over the powerless . Question if you can live with these exceptions, or whether they are unjustly used against the poor and disadvantaged, or not. Sometimes, the law or decision is so much out of context, or so unrealistically tough that it is almost impossible to apply. Studying this angle of the triangle will likely give you one of three choices for your strategy:

  • The content is adequate and you ought to make sure that it is not touched in your campaign. You will also need to examine the other two angles as described below.
  • The content has serious loopholes and you need to have it overhauled or amended.
  • The content seriously lacks the elements that you need to address the problem/issue. Your efforts should include something about introducing this new content.

A word of warning should be mentioned here. There is almost an instinctive, yet faulty, assumption that the content analysis is exclusively done by lawyers. This assumption is faulty because it undermines lay people’s ability to analyze and criticize legislative and legal processes and documents. In real life, we are always almost surprised at the ability of the ordinary citizens to analyze such processes and documents with fresh and important perspectives especially when their lives are directly affected by these laws and legislations. Some of the consequences that might happen if we go with the assumption that it is exclusively a lawyers’ job include the following:

  • Further excluding people from participating in the process, and consequently, diminishing their power further;
  • Emphasizing the image that such people cannot be critical of legal and legislative processes;
  • Continuing the same old message that the legislators and lawyers do not need to involve citizens in the legislative and legal matters; and
  • Depriving the campaign from valuable insights that those people can bring to the advocacy and empowering process.

Structure/Application We can always think of content (laws, decision, or policies) that was never applied, or has been idle for so many years. A simple example could be the parents who made a rule that the children can only watch one hour of television a day. Whether this rule (content) is applied or not is another thing. Laws, decisions, or policies also may not be applied for many reasons. For instance, effective application of these laws (etc.) needs trained personnel or funds that are not available; or maybe those who are responsible for applying the law are not really interested in doing so, and no one holds them accountable. You need to examine if the laws (etc.) are not applied, and the reason(s) why they are not.

Political Will Political will is needed both to create or amend a good content, as well as to implement this content. Obviously, much of the political is created by pressure from elites and powerholders. The Advocacy for People’s Power model seeks to have ordinary citizens create the pressure for the needed political will at the expense of the pressure created by elites and power holders.

As noted in the Selective Political Will case study, political will existed to amend the legislation, but not to really apply the new legislation. Surprisingly there was common agreement that these laws are not for actual application.

Selective Political Will

A Case of Applying to Join the European Union

In one of the European countries seeking to join the European Union, an expatriate advocacy consultant noticed that, in discussing the existing legal framework to address specific issues, community members would sometimes use phrases like “This is an EU legislation!” in a dismissive manner. At that time, extensive efforts to join the European Union were underway with much support from the public. When said more than once by different community groups, the consultant asked for further elaboration on what such phrases actually meant. To his surprise, he learnt that such legislations were required by the EU as prerequisites to accept the country’s application to join the EU. Apparently, communities – and possibly the government – understood that these legislations are not for application but rather for getting the EU to accept their application. The consultant inferred that there was political will to change the content (laws), but not necessarily to apply this content (laws). Almost everyone was in a tacit agreement about that.

One possible negative effect that such a selective political will is that the culture would be more open to accept the idea that some laws are really not for application, which poses a series of other challenges to the culture and how it deals with legislations.

Culture This is a critical piece of the analysis that is often forgotten or undermined. The culture is where most of the people are. You are actually affecting the public opinion and perspectives when you deal with the culture. This is why the Culture dimension adds much depth to the advocacy process rather than only limiting the changes to the content and structure. In fact, working on the cultural part, where you are dealing with the beliefs and traditions of people is often harder than changing laws and policies, but definitely more lasting. This is why governments and power holders pay much attention to the socialization process that takes place through regular education and the media.

In examining this part, you will need to answer difficult questions such as, “What is in the culture that helps perpetuate the problem?” “What belief systems support the status quo?”Where in the culture can we find support for the change we need to achieve?” Examining these questions should help us link this analysis to the Invisible Power discussed in the Third Chapter.


Technical Idea: Eman Mandour & Nader Tadros; Artistic Idea: Golo

One of the great uses of the Triangular Analysis tool is that it helps you sharpen your advocacy strategy to identify where you need to work most. For instance, if you have good content, you do not need to spend your efforts calling for having a law that already exists but is seldom applied. You would rather spend your efforts in advocating for the authorities to apply this good content. Using the same logic, the more the issue is related to prevailing beliefs, the more your advocacy interventions will be directed towards public opinion leaders more than legislatures (content) and executives (structure).


In your circle of advocacy colleagues, do the following:

  • Take the issue you have identified in the previous exercise and apply the Triangular Analysis to it.
  • What strategic direction has the Triangular Analysis steered you to?

Developing your Advocacy Campaign Objectives


In advocacy, it is often a good idea not to mix between issues. Mixing different issues confuses people and misguides them about the real purpose of the campaign. Focusing on one issue at a campaign is highly recommended.

Unlike the common wisdom, sometimes it is good not to try to hit two birds with one stone! Focus only on one issue at a time! (Besides, it feels horrible to hit birds anyway!)

Stakeholders Analysis

Analyzing the stakeholders around your issue is another critical component to reach a viable advocacy strategy plan. As with almost all other analytical tools, there is no one point in time when we exclusively do this exercise. Nevertheless, we need to make sure to go through this exercise after setting our campaign objectives to help us anticipate the response of different people and groups to the objectives we announce.

Before we go into the details of analyzing the stakeholders, we need to highlight the following principles:

  • Earlier, we established the linkage between advocacy and social justice on one side and politics and power on the other. Analyzing stakeholders brings these linkages to reality. The fact that you are engaged in the political process and changing the power dynamics is crucial in your calculations.
  • In playing politics, it is important to remember that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Your best supporters in one issue could be your worst enemy in another. You always need to test this principle. You cannot take people for granted unless you approach them on each issue every time. You may be surprised at finding unlikely allies, and disappointed at failing friends.
  • Always remember that you are dealing with individuals, and not groups. One of the very common mistakes is that we assume that institutions have one position. The reality is that within any institution you can find contradicting opinions. The official position of an institution may be against you. But if you dig deep enough you may find supporters within this institution whose voices are not heard. It is important to seek such individuals and work with them

The following stakeholder categories (adapted from the Midwest Academy, are useful in giving us a way to analyze the stakeholders we are going to see in advocating for our cause(s):

Constituents Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, defines Constituency as6) “A constituency is any cohesive corporate unit or body bound by shared structures, goals or loyalty. It can be used to describe a business's customer base and shareholders, or a charity's donors or those it serves. The most common meaning of constituency occurs in politics and means either the group of people from whom an individual or organization hopes to attract support, or the group of people or geographical area that a particular elected representative or group of elected representatives represents. The rest of this article deals with this sense of constituency.”

Constituents are those who support the advocacy cause and work together to achieve justice in regards to this cause. The use of the word constituents, which is a political term meaning those who have the right to cast votes, serves a specific purpose in the context of advocacy. In traditional social development, this category is referred to as the target group. The use of the word, constituents carries a meaning that the advocacy leaders are really the representatives of those people, and are also accountable to those people. In this context, however, it is important to indicate that, unlike political constituency in which the “delegate” represents all the people in the district or area she or he represents, the advocacy constituency is those who give their explicit support and proxy for some advocacy leaders to represent their position towards a specific issue.

Advocacy constituents come from two different groups, the affected (those who are affected by the problem/issue), and the concerned (who are not affected, but care much about the problem/issue and are heavily involved in addressing it.) It is important to have the support of the concerned as an indicator that this cause is a just one. Nevertheless, those concerned should be careful not to fall in the trap of stealing the power from the affected.

Building a constituency and being accountable to it is an integral part of the advocacy model that we promote. In other words, if these efforts depend only on benevolent people who like to do good, even to the extent of risking their own lives for a cause, without building such a constituency, we do not view it as people-centered advocacy.


Your advocacy campaign allies are individuals, institutions and associations that are willing to provide you with limited support when asked. It is advisable to ration, and be strategic about your use of these allies as you are not sure when you will need them most.


In the context of advocacy, targets are the decision-makers whom you want to influence. Identifying the decision makers is a very tricky exercise and there is not formula for it. Before we go into this discussion, we need to draw a distinction between a decision-taker and a decision-maker. A decision-taker is the person who ultimately signs off on the policy or the decision. The higher the rank of the decision-taker, the more remote she/he is from making the decision. Being a person with several responsibilities, she/he would rather delegate much of the decision-making power to one of her/his subordinates. The decision-maker is actually the person who prepares the decision for the signature of the official person. Our advocacy efforts should be directed toward the decision-maker with less advocacy effort directed at the decision-taker. Finding the real decision-maker is the tricky part as she/he is not necessarily the person officially responsible.

To further complicate the task, many decisions are officially made by a committee and not by a person. If we go back to the principle of dealing with individuals and not solid groups, we will find out that in the case of a collective decision-making, such as in committees, there are individuals who are the ‘movers and shakers’ in a committee. It is hard to go against these leaders, but it is not impossible. This also brings us back to the point of politics and how the idea of equal votes is not really equal in application. Some committee members’ votes carry more weight than others. In working with committees, it is important to do our research and homework in identifying whom the real decision-maker(s) are in the committee.

This leads us to identifying the following target sub-categories:

  • The Primary Target is the person who is the most influential in making the decision. We need to know who that person is and how to influence her/his decision. We put much emphasis on analyzing the position of the Primary Target as she/he plays a crucial role in addressing our issue. The following is a tool to analyze the Primary Target’s position.


  • Secondary (Alternative) Targets are those who are competitors to the Primary Targets, but not as powerful. In case you encounter a serious problem with the Primary Target, you need to build up alternative block with the support of the Secondary (or Alternative) Target to secure a decision in your favor.
  • Official Target: Many times, the official target, or the person who we should officially address is not the person who really makes the decision. Even if the official target is not the decision maker, it is critically important to learn about and follow the official process, and to show due respect to the official target. This should shield your campaign from any subbotage or hard feelings that you to be correct in.
  • Support Targets are those who also play a role in the decision-making process, but are not the most influential. They are the other committee members who could show some support (or resistance) to the primary target. Reach out to those targets to reduce any resistance that they might show if they hear about your requests for the first time.
  • Access Targets are those who can give us access to the primary target. This person could be the driver, the administrative staff, the spouse, or even distant family members of the primary target.


Opponents are those who will not support your position and efforts in dealing with the issue. They are in a continuum between those who trust you, and agree with the need to address the issue, but do not agree with your approach, to the other end of the continuum that are people who simply do not trust you nor agree with you on the issue.

Opponents come in different shapes and with different levels motivations to be against you or against the issue itself. The Social Barometer and the Strategic Influence Grid provide you with some of these shades.

Fence Sitters

It is often not easy for people to take sides. Unless feeling strongly about something, people will tend to be neutral, at least in how they express their opinions. In your advocacy campaign, think of ways to move these fence sitters on your side and avoid losing them to your opponents.

Relationships as a Point of Our Strength

In analyzing the stakeholders, it is very important to emphasize the importance of relationships and relationship building. The relationships we have with others are one of the key points of collective strengths the group has. The more the group brings these relationships to the process the better chance they have in reaching out to and influencing all of the stakeholders.chapter_5_social_barometer.jpg

Analysis of Advocacy Target(s) Tool

The following tool is used after the advocacy group has performed a full strategic analysis of the issue using a few strategic analysis tools, setting advocacy campaign objectives and conducted a stakeholder analysis in the light of the set objectives. As part of the stakeholder analysis, the advocacy group should identify primary and support targets (decision makers) whom should the group seeks to influence their decision. This tool helps the group to analyze the target(s) they need to influence.

Analysis of Advocacy Target7)

Statement explaining your advocacy position:

Target’s Name:

After doing your research, rank your target on each of the following (1 is low, 5 is high):

  • Level of knowledge of your organization 1 2 3 4 5
  • Level of knowledge of your cause 1 2 3 4 5
  • Level of agreement with your cause 1 2 3 4 5
  • Level of previous support for your cause 1 2 3 4 5

(if totally opposed, mark 0)

  • Level of your communication to date 1 2 3 4 5
  • Level of mutual trust 1 2 3 4 5

Describe your previous contacts with the target:

Other considerations (for example, declared or undeclared interest that your target has in the issue):

Level of influence you may have over your target suggested by the responses to the previous questions:

The Strategic Influence Grid

The following grid (adapted by Nader Tadros from an unknown source, 1998) is a tool to help us analyze the different stakeholders (individuals) according to two factors, the level of trust with us, and the level of consensus or agreement on the issue itself. chapter_5_strategic_infl_grid.jpg chapter_5degree_of_mutual_trust.jpg degree_of_mutual_trust.jpg


Applying the stakeholder analysis to your issue, identify the different stakeholders with a description of the position of each one of them.

1) Miller, Valerie; 1997. Advocacy Sourcebook: Frameworks for Planning, Action, and Reflection. Chapter III. Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, USA.
2) Gladkikh, Olga, 2005. Advocacy and Networking Manual. Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University. Nova Scotia, Canada.
3) Joseanthony, Joseph of NCAS/Christian Aid; 1999; from: Advocacy Sourcebook: A guide to advocacy for WSSCC co-ordinators working on the WASH campaign P. 27 & 28. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), Geneva, Switzerland; WaterAid, London, UK; 2003.
4) Tadros, Nader; 2006. Advocacy Concepts And Practices Handbook: A Practical Guide to Advocacy Groups. People’s Advocacy, Virginia, USA.
5) Adapted from the Mid West Academy.
6) Constituency. (2007, December 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:53, January 16, 2008
7) Adapted by Nader Tadros from an unknown source, 2000

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