The following training module is based on Pathfinder International Straight to the point series, TACSO Manual for Advocacy and Policy Influencing for social change. We want to thank Jan de Vries, co-autor of the last manual, for his valuable contribution to this module. While there are many ways to carry out policy influencing, we find the methodology facilitated by Jan de Vries particularly efficient. 

This module will help you differentiate between the types of activities that could fall under the general heading of policy influencing. By the end of the module you will be able to identify the fundamental principles all organisations undertaking policy influencing should adopt and the actions needed to abide such principles.

What is Policy Influencing?
Policy Influencing is the deliberate and systematic process of influencing the policies, practices and behaviour of different targeted stakeholders who have the most influence on the issue in question, involving beneficiaries and increasing their ownership and capacity of the issue. Activities can be singled out, or a mixed strategy can be applied, in which joint forces and concerted action increases the effectiveness of any policy influencing interventions.

Under the broad umbrella of Policy Influencing, it is important to make a conscious choice of the type of activities you can undertake as a part of your strategy. It is also crucial that you have a key message that reflects your position towards the issue of concern. Not only should this message be directed to the right audience, but concrete and concise about what you expect your audience of interest to change or do.

Lobbying Values based less confrontational activities that aim to influence the policy formulation and decision-making processes of  key representatives . Entails some form of direct dialogue between parties.
AdvocacyEvidence based and confrontational non-violent activities designed to influence policies, practices and behaviour . It includes lobbying (non-violent by nature) and other activities.
ActivismValues based and confrontational activities designed to draw attention on an issue, inform or convince others. Such activities can put pressure on particular stakeholders to change, using third parties such as the public.

Activities Examples


MOST – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The MOST citizen’s organisation, as an electoral monitoring organisation, has successfully lobbied for reform of the electoral code in Macedonia by, among other things, lobbying key representatives in ministeries and parliamentarians at various stages of the elaboration process of a new electoral code.


Foundation Combating Soil Erosion – Turkey. A good example of an advocacy activity that is not also lobbying is the activity of the Turkish Foundation Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA). In their lobby for approval of “The Law on Soil” Protection and Land Improvement”, they also applied pressure by launching a petition campaign and getting over 1 million signatures.


Youth Educational Forum – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They work on issues regarding social inclusion of young people and anti-corruption in higher education. By uploading short videos (amateur clips, podcasts and graphics) on YouTube and/or Vimeo. They have gained space and built a large online community on Facebook and Twitter. As a result social groups have been mobilised for events, politicians attracted and authorities alarmed.

Source:  Advocacy for Social Change, Roebeling, G. And Vries J. De, TASCO, 2011

Identifying issues for Advocacy

Pathfinder International provides a guide tool to help you prioritize identified issues. This tool lists criteria you should consider when deciding which advocacy issue to pursue. Within these criteria facts such, your organisation’s potential impact on the issue, the effort required to impact the issue and the importance of the issue to your work, should be considered. For each potential advocacy issue, consider the criteria high, medium, or low. The criteria highlighted in green must be rated high for your advocacy issue to have the potential to succeed. 

CriteriaConsiderations Rating
Policy change needed is clear* What kind of policy change is needed
Number of your programs that will be affected by your issue*

The more programs susceptible to be affected, the better the issue.
Level of effort required How much of your time, energy, and other resources will be needed?
Potential for success* If success is unlikely, this is not a good issue.
Estimated time required to succeed The shorter the amount of time needed, the better.
Level of public support for your issue If the public is supportive, success is more probable
Level of policymakers’ support for your issue If policymakers are supportive, success is more probable
Potential for negative consequences for your organization Will your activities hurt your reputation, decrease your potential for funding, etc.?
Potential for positive consequences for your organization Will your activities improve your reputation, help you get new funding, etc.?
Financial resources to support this kind of advocacy work* Without the necessary financial resources, success is unlikely.
Partners to support you in this kind of advocacy work Having strong partnerships is usually essential to success
Evidence that the issue is important and achievable Is there concrete experience and/or other reliable information sources indicating that this is a good issue for advocacy?
Level of importance to your organisation as a matter of principle The issue you choose should be in line with your organization’s mission and values

Source: Pathfinder International, Setting Advocacy Priorities Straight to the Point Series . (2011): 1-7.

Policy Influencing Principles

There is much debate about measuring the effectiveness and even the impact of advocacy. Many methodologies have been developed and while they are promising tools, they remain unclear. Yet, while it is argued that advocacy and policy influencing are no classic examples of service-delivery work, there are still some basic principles that organisations should follow to be effective. These basic principles can be summarized in the word CLASP, that stands for:

PPower Based


An important componen of any successful advocacy strategy is a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities that exist for influencing the policy process and the risks associated with them. If you find difficult to answer the questions asked in this training module, you should ask yourself if the advocacy issue you identifies is in fact the right issue for you. In such case, you can either identify a new issue or search for missing information. Whichever you decide to do, be realistic about your capacities and success potential. Remember that changes in the political environment (e.g., new risks and opportunities and reactions from the individuals and institutions you are targeting) can affect your advocacy initiative and the activities you will conduct.

Additional Resources