Public Lab Research note

How to evaluate and choose an advocacy pathway

by stevie | March 22, 2017 19:48 22 Mar 19:48 | #14048 | #14048

stevie was awarded the Basic Barnstar by SimonPyle for their work in this research note.

Workshop: Evaluating and Choosing Advocacy Pathways

Why (the Situation): Community groups facing an environmental concern need to choose an advocacy strategy. This workshop is designed to help groups identify what advocacy pathways are available, most effective, and that best suit their objectives.

When: This workshop is appropriate for a group which has already worked through their problem definition. NOTE: If your group would like to work through creating a Problem Definition together, perhaps Activities 3 & 4 in the Wetlands Toolkit might be a useful reference.

Where: in an open room preferably where chairs can be set up in a circle.

What (the content): about the problem; past advocacy activities; brainstorming advocacy possibilities; most effective pathways; creating to-dos

For What (Achievement Based Objectives): In completing this workshop you will:

  • identify what brought people here and what the major concerns are,
  • identify what has been done in the past to advocate for the cause,
  • explore what advocacy could be done in the future,
  • identify the best steps moving forward,
  • create a plan to achieve the advocacy strategy.

Notes for Facilitators

Estimated Time: 3.5 hours

Materials Needed:

  • 7 sheets of large poster paper
  • dot stickers of 3 different colors 50 of each (preferably, red, yellow and green)
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Pens

Setting up the event:

  • Arrange the room so that there are chairs in a circle. Have a table in the circle so that someone can take notes on the poster board.
  • Ensure there is a place on the wall where the posters can be hung so that people can gather around them and read them together.
  • 3 poster papers will be for activity one and should be labeled one each with: “Stories,” Concerns,” and “Visions” at the top.
  • 4 poster papers will be for activity 2
  • Each one should have a title at the top (two titled Past Strategies, two titled Potential Strategies)
  • All papers should have 2 columns down the left hand side approximately one inch or large enough for one dot sticker each. Title one column “Easy” and the other column “Effective” on each paper. The entire right side should be blank leaving room for the brainstorm list.

Workshop Schedule:

  1. Introduction (30 minutes)
    1. Who is here today? (20 minutes)
    2. Introductions among tables (10 minutes)
  2. Identifying advocacy strategies (40 minutes)
    1. Brainstorm of past strategies (20 minutes)
    2. Brainstorm future strategies (20 minutes)
  3. Identify what would work the best (30 minutes)
  4. Discussing the results
  5. Outline a strategy (40 minutes)
    1. Picking our strategy (20 minutes)
    2. Checking our strategy (20 minutes)
  6. Identifying steps moving forward (20 minutes)
    1. Create a task list (15 minutes)
    2. Follow-ups (5 minutes)

Workshop Outline:

Activity 1. Introduction (30 minutes)

1.1 Who is here today? (20 minutes)

For the activity below, if there are really a lot of people, then as a large group say names only, and then break into smaller groups to do the rest.

“Let’s start by introducing ourselves and where we’re from and we’ll start off with an activity that will help us identify why we’re all here today.”

  • Think about the environmental issue and share a memory of your experience with it in three phrases or sentences.
  • Describe your concern that has brought you here.
  • Describe your vision that has brought you here.

Once you are done sharing all three of theses with the group, take three post-its and write a single word / phrase on each, one that captures your experience, one for your concern, and one for your vision.

1.2: Introductions among tables (10 minutes)

Everyone go up and place your post-its on the wall under the appropriate heading: “Stories”, “Concerns”, “Visions”. Once these post-its are up, take a few minutes collectively to notice similar types of concerns, and make groupings of common themes. Feel free to ungroup as needed! Also note: not all post-its need to be grouped! Time permitting, stay near the wall and discuss as a group our range of lived experiences and what’s at stake with [your environmental issue]. A motivated notetaker from the group might add post-its to the walls to capture information emerging from the discussion. The facilitator will photograph the wall.

------ (5 minute break) ------

Activity 2. Identifying advocacy strategies (30 minutes)

This activity involves a brainstorm in which the group will identify all advocacy strategies that have been used in the past or could be used in the future in addressing the environmental concern.

public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.
"their advocacy of progressive family values"
synonyms: support for, backing of, promotion of, championing of;
Advocacy pathways include a variety of actions, like getting media involved, setting up an environmental monitoring program, canvassing to raise public awareness, tabling at events, writing to elected officials, filing lawsuits, educating students on the issue, and more.

2.1: Brainstorm of past strategies (15 minutes) Identify someone who is willing to take notes on the large poster paper.

“Let’s take some time to think about everything we or others have done to address this issue in the past, as a group or individually. Let’s gather all of these approaches now in an open brainstorm session. The note-taker will record these on this poster board.” (It is best to bullet these)

2.2: Brainstorm future strategies (15 minutes) Switch note-takers if needed

“Now let’s take a moment to brainstorm any new ideas that we have for addressing this environmental issue. Remember it can be worthwhile to be creative!”

If the group gets stuck, here are some prompts for potential advocacy strategies:

  • Start a poster campaign
  • Contact the local radio or news channel
  • Start an online newspaper or blog about the issue
  • Start a monitoring project to evaluate changes in the environment
  • Think of other groups or people who could become involved
  • Universities (think social science, health or environmental research, or resources that could be created or used), lawyers, businesses, schools, nurses, etc.
  • Set up a sit-in or boycott

------- (5 minute break) --------

Activity 3: Identify what would work the best (30 minutes)

In this activity participants will identify which advocacy strategies are or would be easiest, and which would be most effective. For this activity, identify someone who can help to tally results. The group will need to be arranged in a way that everyone can see the board and show their hands so that your tallier can clearly see how everyone is voting.

“I will read through all the strategies we outlined earlier and we will all answer two questions on each strategy: (1) How easy would this strategy be to carry out, and (2) how effective do we think would it be? When deciding how you will vote, consider things like the resources your community has, the timeframe necessary for each approach, the people who would be involved, etc.”

Everyone will vote on each question using their thumbs.

  • Thumbs up means easy (or effective)
  • Thumbs to the side means somewhat easy (or somewhat effective)
  • Thumbs down means hard (or not effective)

Read each bullet (strategy) and have your tally person determine which vote is most popular: easy, somewhat easy or hard, and also which vote is most popular of effective, somewhat effective or not effective.

Answers that get easy (or effective) get a green sticker in the columns next to their bullet, answers that get somewhat easy (or somewhat effective) get yellow stickers and answers that get hard (or not effective) get red stickers.

Example below:


Activity 4: Discussing the results (30 minutes)

Once all the votes have been tallied the group will be able to tell which of the strategies would be easiest and most effective (green/green), and which ones might be more difficult or less effective. Take a moment to discuss with the group the results of this activity.

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • What are we surprised about?
  • Do people agree with the results or disagree on anything in particular, why?
  • Does this inspire us? If so, how?
  • Do the easy/effective strategies help us reach our specific goals?
  • Do we have people who can do them?
  • Does what we outline here effectively use the resources we have?
  • Do we have resources available to us that we haven’t talked about using yet?
  • Would all of these strategies occur in the same timeframe, or could one strategy be the basis for a second one following it?
  • Are there things we could change or do differently?

Activity 5: Outline a strategy (40 minutes)

5.1 Picking our strategy (20 minutes)

"Now we will work to identify which strategies we will use to move forward on this issue, and who will be responsible for various parts of the strategy." A good advocacy strategy:

  • Has a focused goal that is consistent with community goals and values,
  • Provides results that address the issue,
  • Is manageable by those who seek to carry it out (with support from a community’s social networks as well as through the Public Lab network,
  • Allows for everyone to participate in their own capacity,
  • Requires resources that are already available or easily obtained,
  • Is motivating to advocates and others impacted by the issue.

“Let’s identify the actions on our list that make the most sense as an advocacy strategy?” (2-3 activities for a strategy is a good start)

5.2 Checking our strategy (20 minutes)

Once the top strategies are picked, go through the questions below and make sure that it addresses all of these:

  • Does the strategy have a focused goal?
  • Is this strategy direct?
  • If it works, will it provide results that address our issue?
  • Is it manageable?
  • Does it allow for everyone to participate in their own capacity?
  • Do we have the resources to do it?
  • Are we motivated to do it?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, refer back to the brainstorm and see if any strategies can be changed or adjusted so that the strategy does answer these questions.

6. Identifying steps moving forward (20 minutes)

6.1 Create a task list (15 minutes)

Using the paper and pens, have everyone take a moment to create a list of tasks that helps to achieve the advocacy goals. Allow time for people to share their lists. After sharing task lists, reflect back to the advocacy strategy you identified as a group. Are there any items, information, or expertise missing from your collective task lists that are essential to complete the advocacy work? If so, reassess tasks lists and make sure to include the missing pieces. Be sure that each person has tasks to which they have identified that they can contribute. As a group, work together to identify the immediate next steps.

6.2 Follow-ups (5 minutes)

Select a person to compile the notes of today’s meeting and post them back to the group (for example, as a Research Note on or as an email in the Public Lab regional email list). Identify the next meeting time and place for the group to check in on how the advocacy strategy is going.

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@SimonPyle awards a barnstar to stevie for their awesome contribution!

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