The Evolution of Advocacy

 

The Old Advocacy

The process "aimed at influencing public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation" has been variously described as lobbying, government relations, public affairs and advocacy along with several more uncomplimentary epithets by commentators, critics, practitioners, politicians and clients over the years. More recently the term "spin doctor" has been used in a derogatory context to describe the activities of public relations consultants and political staff members as well as those referred to above. For the moment, let's call it lobbying. (for more click here)

The New Advocacy (TNA) - What does it mean?

Whilst successful advocacy must always contain the ingredients of a good network of contacts and a deep knowledge of the system of government, there are other factors which are now essential to effective advocacy. The complexity of issues at the government policy interface can no longer be dealt with by the old rules and processes of lobbying. At the heart of the new advocacy is a mixture of behavioral and technological change together with a systems approach to consulting. (More)

Research, planning, implementation continuum

The hexagon map above shows the processes through which the additional disciplines and analysis are brought to bear on advocacy programs.

The hexagon map is one of the creative thinking tools which can open up hidden options and possibilities by moving the hexagons around. It also displays a systems approach (causal loop) within which activities, outcomes and evaluation occur.

On-Line Surveys

During the research phase ofan advocacy project, it is critical to collect and analyse whatever information may be useful to the task at hand. In the past, conducting surveys, usually by telephone or by completing a printed questionnaire has been both expensive to the surveyor and resented by the respondent. Often such surveys as were conducted were badly targeted, required a huge investment of time and took ages to complete and analyse.

With the advent of on-line sophisticated survey products, it is now possible for such analysis to be undertaken swiftly and cheaply and without imposing too many demands on respondents.

Uses for web-based surveys are expanding exponentially. The New Advocacy utilises in-house surveys such as:

External environmental analysis

  • Key stakeholders
  • Customers

Internal polling

  • Satisfaction Surveys
  • Scenario Planning
  • Corporate Planning

Opinion Panel polling

  • Policy testing
  • Competitor analysis

The Survey of Politicians'Lobbying Preferences conducted several years ago is an example of an on-linesurvey conducted in-house by Client Solutions.

The NewAdvocacy - Web-based Collaboration

ProjectManagement

A typical advocacy firmhas several "staple" clients accounting for a fair slice of the total advocacy workload, plus a series of ad hoc clients who have short term issues or projects on which they need assistance. A typical SIG representing an industry or professional sector also has a range of "clients" aka "members" within its own constituency. They are typically organised into Committees, Project Teams and Working Groups.

In some ways therefore,the modus operandiof lobby firms and peak special interest groups have a number of similarities. These include:

  • Grouping, sorting categorising and prioritising the workload;
  • The need to allocate resources and effort where they are most effective;
  • Scheduling and targeting effort and events to maximise outcomeswhilst avoiding duplication of effort and the possibility of adverse outcomes;
  • An efficient system for consulting with clients or members;
  • An efficient and effective reporting system on work undertaken;
  • A record of the time allocated to specific tasks;
  • A central repository of communications, messages and documents;and
  • A system of evaluating the results against objectives for eachproject.

This may sound like apipe dream to some - others may feel that the old "seat-of-the-pants" approach will still stand them in good stead into the future. The good news is that there are now on-line products available which satisfy all these criteria in an intuitively simple way and for very littlecost.

 

Evenmore importantly, for the Managing Director or CEO they provide two very desirable additions to the current skill base which will be seen as extremely attractive to Clients/Members. These are:

  • No-nonsense project management withmilestones, to-do lists, threaded messages, time- tracking and file storage ina secure on-line environment;
  • The ability to bring, not only your keystaff into specific projects, but also to allow access to selected clients/membersinto specific projects as appropriate.

The system I used at Client Solutions (see picture) is easily installed and implemented. We used it both internally on business development and research as well as across all client projects (see "Communications" below). It is simple, intuitive- even fun to use!

Best of all, it is extremely cheap and cost-effective. For a once-only set-up, configuration and familiarisation fee of $2,500 I can get you up and running immediately. The ongoing cost of site access and maintenance is around $100 per month or less depending on how many projects you have running.

 It operates completely separately from your normal website, provides secure remote storage and access is permission-based, controlled by you.

Communications

The ability to allocate staff to particular projects, and then allocate responsibilities for milestones and to-do lists, introduces enhanced levels of control and collaboration acrossy our organisation.

Staff allocated to a project can message each other and share documents as they are being developed. OK, you might say, we already do this by email. However, I have yet to see a well-organised email system which keeps threads of ideas together and within the scope of a particular project.The on-line answer does this automatically!

Finally,perhaps the biggest selling point of the system is that you can grant permissions to your own clients or individual members to parts of the site where they can collaborate on activities in the same way as staff can.

For most SIGs where members are organised into Committees or Working Groups, this allows those individuals to work together between meetings, on-line in more productive ways. You can even post agendas and attachments on the site rather than emailing large files to numbers of people individually.

It changed the way we operated at Client Solutions and I believe it has the potential to significantly improve the way Special Interest Groups operate.