Just back from Lithuania where I ran an advocacy and policy influencing workshop for a children’s charity and their partners. They were all focussed on challenging the existing policy of residential care for children and promoting the need for community based alternatives.
Some were comfortable with advocacy, while for others it was something totally new. We started with seeking to define the external political environment by posing the question where does power lie in Lithuania?
We divided up into small groups, and as ever, I was surprised when they reported back with their different assessments. It does show, I think, the importance of making your assumptions on the external environment explicit in any advocacy work and being open to be challenged on these assumptions.
After some discussion, we got some degree of clarity that in seeking to promote policy or practice change we should look at three levels of power: the national, the municipal and families/ communities.
Having established these three levels, we then set out to construct three influence trees to show the different routes to seek influence on these three targets.
Having established our influence trees, we then began to debate how we might make progress in each of these three areas. To do so we used the theory of change approach. I have written about this many times in the past but the idea is so simple – you do something so that something else happens. We tried to set out our ‘so that’ chain for each area of focus.
I was energised by this training as we were able to both convey the basics of advocacy but also to begin to develop an advocacy strategy. People learnt some new skills but also began to apply their new learning on their issue of concern. At the end of the course, people took down their flip charts with all of their work on them – they now seemed ready to begin their advocacy work.