People Centred Advocacy

In April this year our India office organised a centralised training for all our partner organisations in order to revisit the India advocacy strategy, formulated in 2006. On receiving the report we were sent on this training I decided to revisit the advocacy strategy myself.

Women demonstrating in Chhattisgarh, India

“Any advocacy process must be initiated at the community level”

In a blog post I wrote earlier this year ( ‘pilot projects and participation’ ) I referred to a book I read called “The Aid Chain – Coercion and Commitment in Development NGOs”. In this book the researchers note that often, due to the prevalence of ‘log frame’ approaches in international development projects, important concepts such as “advocacy have been depoliticized and seen more as technical approaches to development…..often research and consultations with local people legitimize NGO advocacy work, which is set at the international level.”

I was therefore pleased to see that, in keeping with our vision and mission, the advocacy strategy was ‘initiated at the community level.’ The common issues to be addressed were identified following a process of consultation involving communities, project field staff and directors, with the support and assistance of activists and development professionals.

“Advocacy is a process of social transformation”

In “What is People Centred Advocacy?” John Samuel highlights the difference between advocacy viewed as a systemic process of policy change, and advocacy understood as a process of social transformation.

The cornerstone of FYF India’s advocacy strategy involves mobilising people around an issue. Our partners work at the local level to raise awareness of social, economic and political rights and to provide training in advocacy and lobbying skills. This approach goes beyond the idea of advocating on behalf of the marginalised, to the practice of enabling and empowering the marginalised to speak for themselves, as the story on our website about dalit women ‘speaking out to Sonia Gandhi’ shows.

Meanwhile our advocacy work on tribal and weaver rights shows the importance of networking in “bridging the gap between micro-level and macro level policy initiatives” and of media exposure in “bringing key issues affecting communities into the public arena and the political discourse.”

Looking forwards

Our partners took an active role in the training that took place in April. Through case studies, experience sharing and group presentations they undertook a deeper analysis of the issues facing the communities they work with and shared ideas as to how the advocacy strategy could be taken forward over the next couple of years. Following this process it was agreed that our advocacy strategy would work to:

Build the capacity of the community to lobby on a particular issue by identifying committed local activists who could be involved in capacity building programmes for communities.
• Develop a data base of community organisations and NGOs working on similar issues so as to broaden our networking possibilities, thereby increasing the multiplier effect.
Improve public awareness of key issues by identifying sensitive journalists, organising media workshops and conferences and facilitating field reporting of media persons. This work will be informed by fact finding missions and policy analysis of identified issues. This is important because, as John Samuel puts it “Knowledge-based activism is an important factor that influences the public.”

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