“You have to be very careful with your strategy in Policy Advocacy.” One of the many gems that were dropped by Mrs. Shantal Munro-Knight, Executive Coordinator of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), during the second day of the “Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Farmers’ Leaders Workshop” at the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum.
Having not been in the first day, but following the session via Twitter, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the second day for many reasons. It proved to be a worthwhile decision as the session was just as exciting and informative on day 2 as it was on day 1. Mrs. Munro-Knight was one of three presenters for the day and focused on helping participants understand the process of Policy Advocacy and ensuring that your Policy Ask is a priority for policy makers. In doing this, she presented a few case studies that were conducted by the CPDC, their strategy and the end result. A number of key points were raised, a few being:
Specificity in your Policy Ask
We have a tendency to get very excited and think that all of our problems can be solved at once. And more specifically, that Policy Makers can and will solve all of our problems. A kind of Superhero phenomenon. This is a major no-no. The first exercise of the day was to create a Policy Ask. The instructions were simple: identify ONE problem that farmers are facing, three key targets, one each at the local, regional and international levels, come up with an Ask and this must be measurable and tangible. In doing the exercise, we quickly recognised two things: picking a singular problem, as a group, was hard, and identifying your targets/influencers was a tricky process. Upon completion, each Ask was critiqued by participants who put on the hat of the Policy Makers. Such a simple exercise pointed to a basic truth: The Ask must be concrete, achievable and specific, least you will receive zero to little traction with it.
Power in Listening
“Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to listen”, another gem by Mrs. Munro-Knight.
The beauty about this statement is that it can be applied to every aspect of our lives. We often underestimate the power and value in just being silent and listening. In the Policy Advocacy, we are quick to be loud and try to convince others of our position, when sometimes, all that the situation requires is for us to just listen to another perspective. Your own position does not have to, and probably will not change, but if you have an understanding of where another party is coming from you will be better able to influence them and have them adopt your position.
Who does what and when?
It is important in our policy advocacy that we know and understand who plays what role and when they should play it. It will do us no good if everybody plays the ‘rah rah’ role, as so eloquently described by Mrs. Munro-Knight. In a farmers’ group, you have to decide who will be the whip and who will be the voice. Everybody cannot be whipping and nobody being the voice. The process would be counter-productive.
Build Alliances and Partnerships
There is strength in numbers. It is not a concept that us Caribbean people seem to grasp, but it is the plain truth and the sooner we understand this, the sooner we can find solutions to our problems. In building alliances, we also have to make sure that everyone shares in the strategic objective of the Ask. Alliances with key stakeholders ensures, or at the very least, triggers buy in by Policy Makers.
“Advocacy is a process, not an individual activity”
Photo credit: Luke Smith
Blogpost by Nakasi Fortune, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.