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Effective advocacy in the international system


What is advocacy? Which advocacy strategies are the most effective? Who are the best / most effective advocates?

These are the questions that we often need to address while working on international communications strategies. But are those questions asked and reflected upon enough?

From resource allocation to policy-making processes, all the elements related to running an organization are subject to negotiation and influence. Being heard and understood becomes critical for organizations and individuals alike. No organizational goal can be achieved without some level of internal and/or external advocacy.

Some say that advocacy is an art. Others claim it is a craft. Both would agree that the aim of advocacy is to create an environment in which others support our case. This is the biggest paradox of advocacy; it is a goal and the process towards this goal at the same time.

Advocacy in a multilateral world

Everyday, the international system becomes more and more complex. The lines of power between established actors and emerging ones are blurred. Organizations and individuals without formal authority often can influence policies and decision-making processes more than those who are in charge on paper.

At the same time, many actors can claim a stake in any issue of global importance. Everyone becomes a “stakeholder.” As a consequence, everyone should (and needs to) be taken into consideration. Mapping the relationships between the actors and benchmarking them against concepts and topics becomes more laborious, yet is a precondition of success for any advocacy campaign.

So what does this mean for advocates operating globally?

  1. In order to effectively advocate, one needs to understand who has a real influence on the subject. This requires an understanding of the international system, as well as an understanding of its current transformation.
  2. Clearly defined goals and ways to measure progress towards these goals are paramount to build efficient advocacy strategies – they provide the call to action.
  3. Influence requires understanding. Understanding requires simplicity – it can only be achieved by clarity of narrative. There is no advocacy without a narrative.
  4. Using tools (social media, videos, infographics etc.) is only effective if done in an integrated manner.
  5. Flexibility and agility have to be in the center of one’s mindset while planning and executing international advocacy strategies.

In order to deliver on these points, one needs to understand the context, analyse the dynamics and have the skills to develop powerful campaigns. For seven years, we have partnered with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies to deliver an Executive Certificate programme (now with an option to upgrade to an Executive Master) in Advocacy in International Affairs. If you want to practice the art of advocacy, you might wish to consider the program.

Lukasz Bochenek

Managing Director / Deputy CEO, based in Geneva

Lukasz is Managing Director for Switzerland, Belgium and UK offices as well as deputy CEO for Leidar. He oversees key international client projects and relationships. In addition, he manages external partnerships and memberships of Leidar. 

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