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Advocacy – it’s all about integrated engagement

 

Last week, we completed the 5th edition of the Executive Certificate “Advocacy in International Affairs”. Having spent nearly twenty days with the students, we have been reminded that the professional discipline of advocacy is significantly more sophisticated than it ever has been.

Last week, we completed the 5th edition of the Executive Certificate “Advocacy in International Affairs”. Having spent nearly twenty days with the students, we have been reminded that the professional discipline of advocacy is significantly more sophisticated than it ever has been.

Actors from the private, government and non-profit sectors are developing new models to interact and work in cooperation. The most poignant example of this new breed of cooperation is the development and ratification of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Multiple state and non-government actors come together with their individual expertise and managed to influence and set the global agenda with a sustained, collaborative approach.

The implementation of the SDGs and their inclusion in organisational business strategies should be viewed as a meta-trend that holds a deep sway over advocacy today. Other trends that we observe are:

  1. The proliferation of issues and actors on the international scene. It is now widely agreed that the world’s biggest issues cannot be addressed in isolation. But the resulting system is not yet stable. New actors are emerging and taking over the space previously occupied by traditional institutions and organisations. These new and hybrid actors (PPPs) can quickly gain agenda setting status on virtually any issue.
  2. Sustainability as a new business paradigm. Traditional notions of CSR are not good enough to connect with the stakeholders anymore. Businesses are increasingly expected to take a comprehensive approach. The whole model, therefore, needs rethinking starting from the supply chain right up to the sales and marketing strategies.
  3. Multilateral partnerships. Actors that haven’t previously worked together are forming alliances to influence issues and build new models cooperation.
  4. Interconnected reality of big data and Internet of Things (IoT). Big data provides an opportunity to better understand and influence the choices individuals make all around the world. The IoT enables constant and ubiquitous connectivity and monitoring functionality.
  5. Integration of the communications and marketing strategies. Many organizations still segregate their media relations strategy, social media strategy, and internal communications strategy – from both an organizational and content perspective. There is a strong business argument for focusing on integrating all forms of engagement.

This complex environment requires both analytical knowledge and high-level communications skills. In addition, it requires an even stronger focus on networking and connecting with select individuals.

When we set up the programme “Advocacy in International Affairs” in 2011 with our strategic partner “The Graduate Institute”, it was one of the first – if not the first – degree granting professional certifications in the field of advocacy. At the time, the rise of social media and the evolution of third sector actors had redefined the way the international agenda was set up, how actors engaged and communicated their messages.

This year’s 21 participants came to Geneva from wide array of countries to participate in the course’s two nine-day modules in April and June. Some came from globally operating multi-nationals or large NGOs, others from international organisations. Their varied backgrounds mirrored the new realities of international advocacy nicely. Above all, it’s clear advocacy has become all-encompassing and central to any effective organisational strategy.

The plans for the 6th edition are already underway. Watch out for updates.

 
Łukasz Bochenek

Managing Director / Deputy CEO, based in Geneva

Łukasz is Managing Director of International Strategy and Client Service. He is based in Geneva and leads an international team across Geneva, Brussels and London.

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