Successful Advocacy is Not Just about Luck Its Also About Strategy

In identifying the issues that the organization will address, successful advocate leaders must manage both the expectations and interests of their advocates as well as the agendas of policymakers.  As a result, they must be prepared to establish both proactive and reactive policy agendas.

  • Proactive agendas are those designed to further the legislative, regulatory or other policy interests of the organization.  They are usually comprised of specific initiatives the organization wishes to advance, such as legislation or a change to regulatory rules. 
  • Reactive agendas are developed in response to the initiatives put forth by policymakers or others.

Almost all policy agendas will have both proactive and reactive elements.  Proactive elements are often the easiest to develop, in that organization leaders will hopefully have a good sense of the policy changes necessary to benefit their stakeholders.  Difficulties with proactive agendas may arise when there are competing priorities or stakeholders have unrealistic expectations.

The formation of reactive agendas can prove more difficult. This is in large part because it is often difficult to know what a policymaking body is planning.  Many organizations with well-thought-out proactive agendas find themselves scrambling to manage policy changes proposed from an external source.  To avoid surprises and last-minute policy panic, it is essential to consider what issues your organization might need to address in a reactive manner from the outset.

Options for identifying potential reactive agenda items include:

  • Informal discussions with key legislative and regulatory champions
  • Ongoing review of relevant periodicals, newspapers and other publications
  • Discussions with appropriate state and national associations and interest groups
  • Analysis of legislative and regulatory history, including existing laws up for reauthorization and review
  • Intelligence from well-situated stakeholders

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