Policy Analysis and Advocacy Options

Most associations and charities recognise the importance of some form of advocacy within their strategies. Sometimes that advocacy is for public benefit, but it is often on behalf of constituency or stakeholder interests. Quite often, representation to government involves both sets of considerations.

Not all advocacy is lobbying

As noted by the US Research-to-Policy Collaboration, “All lobbying includes advocacy, but not all advocacy is lobbying“. The header chart above lists various activities typically associated with each of these activities. While the original version of this chart was designed primarily for a US audience, it was readily adaptable for non-profit and for-purpose organisations globally.

Community engagement, coalition building, research projects, ‘nudge’ campaigns, and numerous other advocacy activities are used as elements in more sophisticated advocacy programs. Lobbying politicians directly often forms only a relatively small part of such programs.

Advocacy choices

One of the most frequently read articles on this blog is ‘Carrots, Sticks, and Sermons – sorting policy types’, published back in 2017. I acknowledged at the time that the typology offered in that article was grossly oversimplified, and also later mentioned that Howlett and Ramesh (2003) had identified 64 separate instruments within the economic policy field alone.

At the risk of offering yet another partial listing of public policy instruments, the chart below suggests five examples in each of six categories. These 30 policy options remain high level, and there are many other options or variants that could be listed, including various hybrid combinations. (The ‘carrots sticks and sermons’ are still discernable in this list, however, they are distributed across more than the original three categories).

The six categories of public policy instruments highlighted here, by which governments may respond to problems and issues, are legal, economic, control, managerial, persuasive, and research.

These categories are not exhaustive, nor do they accommodate hybrid and derivative approaches you may be aware of. Nonetheless, they represent a broad cross-section of responses available to governments and public agencies and therefore offer a menu of ideas that you may wish to employ in your advocacy work.

Offering solutions to problems is always more likely to be well received than merely expressing concern and calling for some undefined solution. Being constructive and solution-oriented is far better than leaving it up to the government or public agency to deal with the practicalities of solving the problem.

The ‘art of the possible’

When seeking government action on an issue, it is important to consider both the nature of the problem for which solutions are required and what government has the power and resources to do when addressing the issue/s.

The ‘art of the possible‘ is the discipline being practiced. That means success is defined by making progress towards improved outcomes, without expecting all aspects of your position, or all elements of your proposal, to be adopted or implemented. (See also Actors, Factors, and Vectors of Change).

You will also need to factor in the other ‘issue stakeholders’, including those with competing views, and those who may be allies or partners, seeking similar outcomes for their constituencies.

Policy analysis framework

The chart below illustrates the public policy analysis framework offered by William N. Dunn in his authoritative book Public Policy Analysis: An Integrated Approach (6th Ed., Routledge, 2017).

The chapter summary from the book describes the contents as follows:

“This chapter has provided a methodology for policy analysis that identifies the functions of methods in creating and transforming policy-relevant knowledge. The four regions of the framework, along with inner and outer cycles, call attention to distinctive properties of these methods and point to their origins in different social science disciplines and professions. Because no one method is appropriate for all or most problems, there is a need for multidisciplinary analysis, which requires tradeoffs and opportunity costs. In turn, the analysis of tradeoffs and opportunity costs demands critical thinking. The analysis of policy arguments is well suited for this purpose.”

Chapter 1, plus valuable extracts from the appendices, is available for download here. It is highly recommended reading for all non-profit leaders and policy workers. The elements of a policy argument chart reproduced below – with some minor edits – is particularly helpful for organisations committed to evidence-informed policy.

Adaptable for strategic planning

Non-profit strategic plans frequently focus on social or constituency problems amenable to the use of Dunn’s framework. When considering your theory of change, similar phases of forecasting, prescribing, monitoring, and evaluation will be involved. As for public policy, the way your strategic problem or issue is structured and expressed will largely determine the kinds of solutions that you will consider appropriate.

See also:

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