After the Win: Advocacy for Implementation

As advocates, we spend years getting decision makers to do what we want them to do. Should we spend years making sure the change happens?

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As advocates, we spend years getting decision makers to do what we want them to do.

Our advocacy strategies are sharply honed…
Our target audience is thoroughly studied…
Our policy prescriptions are reality tested and then refined again…
Our coalitions are painstakingly built one member at a time…

And then, at last, the bill passes, the General Assembly meets, or the minister signs his name. We bask in the light of sweet success. It is well deserved.

But nothing has changed in the world. Except now, we have a piece of paper saying someone will take some action and spend some money to remedy some situation.

THIS is the most precarious moment in advocacy. Do we move on to the next policy target? Or do we expend precious resources advocating for the much-less-sexy implementation of the policy?

Too many advocates move on.

And those who put their shoulder to wheel of implementation often find that their campaigning skills do not work as well in the thick of institutional bureaucracies.

Advocacy for implementation is a very different task than advocacy for policy change. Almost every attribute of the process is more complex, opaque, and difficult to measure.

Yet, without this kind of advocacy, the hard-fought-for policy change is not worth much.

So what’s an advocate to do?


Learn new skills for advocating on implementation.


Shift the attitude from that of a “David vs. Goliath” fight to that of a long-term push-and-pull relationship.


Select institutional targets very carefully, and do not try to take them all on at once. Pick the ones that can influence the others.


Build advocacy funding into other institutional work for service delivery or projects, not as overhead, but as another important aspect of program work.


Measure progress differently.

Why bother with implementation advocacy?

It’s well worth it.

I have stood among children who would not have otherwise been in school, especially the girls. The school system was educating 40,000 more children a year in better quality schools with better teachers. Their opportunity resulted from 10 years of advocacy for implementation of a policy. The cost of that advocacy per child was less than $3 each if we just count the first year of students. Every year that goes by that cost is reduced.

It’s all about leverage. Leverage does not happen without implementation.