It might feel hopeless at times—pushing for progressive policies, advocating for the rights and freedoms of vulnerable populations, amplifying their voices and speaking on their behalf when they are unable to do so for themselves.

Advocacy work can be all-consuming—there’s always more to be done. The work is inherently complex, the systems involved are not always well-understood, and solutions have to be adaptive to the changing environment in which they are implemented. We want to thank you for caring, and thank you for doing the work you do, because we know it’s not always easy.

We also know how important the work is, though.


In public health, we don’t have people saying to us ‘I’ve not been killed or injured because of your advocacy for road injury reduction policy’ or ‘I’ve not got diabetes, and I put it down to you’. But our achievements can be seen in many areas of declining incidence of disease and injury.
— Simon Chapman, Australian public health advocate, reflecting on his 38 years of advocacy


We use advocacy to identify and intentionally create the change needed in a particular system. The medium we use to create this change is our stakeholders. We recognize that your time and energy is valuable and in demand, as is the time and energy of your stakeholders.

We want to make it easier to design effective changes and easier to understand if the change is having the desired impact. We designed this toolkit to be used alongside the best practices you’ve already developed and refined in your advocacy work. We designed it to be picked up by novices and experts alike, to support them in human-centred advocacy planning and implementation.


All good advocacy plans come from a deep understanding of the environment and political economy to which they are responding. The objectives and outcomes we set for ourselves are only as good as the information we have in front of us when we develop them. The issue isn’t necessarily that our understanding is misinformed or incorrect, it’s more likely that it’s incomplete. Our understanding of the environment and political economy can never be complete. Even if we were to map the entire political economy, the moment we finished, the map would be out of date. It can be challenging to choose the right target, and to know the impact we are having, in such a dynamic environment.

Much of the complexity in these systems can be attributed to the medium through which we create change. Our stakeholders are at the centre of our work, whether it’s getting a political party to add a bullet to their platform or getting a religious organization to make a formal statement. A lot of time and energy is spent, working with partners, on changing particular stakeholders’ attitudes toward a specific policy priority. It’s important to recognize, then, that people are complex and ever-changing. A particular group that we perceive to be hostile one day, might say a particular thing or take a particular action the next day that suggests they might be more friendly than we initially thought.

These tactical tools and approaches should complement your existing best practices in advocacy planning. Just in case you find that your existing project management approach isn’t supporting this new way of working, we’ve included a description of a different project planning philosophy known as agile.

The way we plan hasn’t kept up with the complexity of the problems to which we are responding.

Traditional advocacy planning relies on a waterfall design process. This stepwise approach to design means we move through the phases of advocacy one at a time. Starting with gathering information about the problem, developing a plan, implementing our plan, and measuring our impact. This non-iterative approach to the design of change does not adequately respond to the dynamic environments in which we are working.

We need a new, iterative approach, which responds to the needs of our stakeholders and the broader environment and is capable of keeping up with a dynamic, complex system. We need an approach that recognizes the balance between the need for strategy and direction and the need for nimbleness and responsiveness.

This toolkit responds to high-level gaps identified in the way we do our advocacy planning by bringing in the tools, the approaches and, most importantly, the philosophy of human-centred design to improve the resiliency of our plans.

Monitoring & evaluation is a good example

In for-profit organizations, the ability to create value and impact typically correlates with their revenue and ultimately their survival. When we step outside the for-profit sector, there isn’t the same direct correlation between our impact and our survival as an organization. Measurement and evaluation techniques have been developed to help public and nonprofit organizations better understand their impact. These techniques, however, don’t respond well to the uncertainty and complexity of the problems we see today. When we focus on only measuring the things we are able to measure, we can miss the bigger picture and fail to build on the successes and learnings that come out of our work.