The irresistible power of storytelling for organizations

“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.” Read more

Developing your advocacy strategy: Three questions to ask

In previous posts, I explored to definition of advocacy and the foundation areas for an effective advocacy strategy. But what is the very first action you should take in developing your strategy? Writing for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jim Shultz stresses that organization’s need to first ask themselves three essential questions.

1. What do you want?
Deciding what you want – what impact or outcomes you want to achieve – requires some serious analysis. This begins with clarifying the deeper problem you are trying to solve and what you think it will take to solve it. As a result, you may find the you have big ambitions. But as Shultz notes, “these grand solutions are almost never initially within political reach, and organizations need to make strategic choices about what to fight for in the shorter-term”.

2. What does the political map look like?
Shultz stresses: “You wouldn’t make a move on a chessboard without studying where the pieces are, and you shouldn’t set off on an advocacy campaign without looking hard at the political map involved.” Mapping out the politics can include looking into who has authority and influence at different levels of government, as well as the political processes and structures that may affect your strategy. Having a good understanding of the context and dynamics will ensure that you adapt your strategy in the right and most effective way.

In addition, I contend that you should also explore the socioeconomic and sociocultural context when addressing this question. These aspects are linked to the political map and can significantly affect the implementation of your strategy.

3. What will you do?
Once you understand what you want and what context you are working in, you need to define the actions and tactics needed to deliver your strategy effectively. Truly explore what you think will have a real impact, assess your capacity to take these actions, and explore strategic opportunities, such as potential partnerships and events.

Reflecting on the three questions, Shultz notes that many organizations fail to take the time to genuinely think in a strategic way. “It is simply easier to think about the next action—a protest, a report, a lobbying visit—without seeing it all through a strategic lens,” he says. Strategic thinking will ensure that your advocacy is as intentional, consistent, relevant, context-specific and impactful as possible.

Shultz notes that effective strategy is an art, not a science, and there is no magic formula that works automatically in every circumstance. But these three questions are a good starting point in place of such a formula.

Featured photo: Protest at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, December 2008. Credit:, Flickr Creative Commons


To mark the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference currently taking place, here’s a good example of harnessing the arts and communications for social change.

Connect4Climate is a global partnership programme launched by the World Bank Group and the Italian Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The initiative tackles climate change by promoting solutions and empowering people to act. Within the programme, various initiatives are directly related to the arts and communications:

Fashion4Climate focuses on making manufacturing processes more environmentally sustainable.

Music4Climate engages the music industry to spread the climate change message. For example, in 2011 the partnership launched the Rhythms Del Mundo: Africa CD featuring collaborations between established and up-and-coming African artists. In collaboration with MTV, some of the songs were featured in New York’s Times Square. In 2012, the partnership hosted the Voices4Climate competition, which included over 1,000 music video entries calling for climate action. Watch the winning music video below.

Music4Climate also brought together musicians for Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, held in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Film4Climate is dedicated to greening the film industry. The initiative aims to help develop a concrete plan to mitigate the environmental impact of film production, as well as raise awareness about climate change through cinema. In 2015, the initiative hosted a competition, Action4Climate, which challenged filmmakers to raise awareness of climate change, share experiences and inspire action by creating a video documentary. Watch the winning documentary below.

This year’s Film4Climate competition
 invited filmmakers between 14-35 to create a short public service announcement or film about climate action. Submissions for the competition are closed, but you can see the more than 860 entries here. The awards ceremony for the competition will take place at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, taking place 7-18 November in Marrakech, Morocco.

What’s your wish for refugee and migrant children?

Top illustrators from across the globe — including Christoph Niemann, Jean Jullien and Mrzyk & Moriceau — are answering this question via the #illustrators4children campaign (Twitter).

The campaign was launched by UNICEF ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where world leaders are currently gathered.

UNICEF aims to raise awareness of the refugee and migrant issue, which it says is “first and foremost a children’s crisis.”

Featured image: Screenshot from the #illustrators4children campaign on Instagram. Illustration by Ayumi Takahashi

The case for communications

Image: Maxime Dinaux, Flickr

“Halting climate change. Eradicating disease. Lifting up the arts. Ending poverty. At their core, foundations and nonprofits are in the business of developing and advancing big, bold ideas. If you want your ideas to take hold and win, you need to communicate and communicate well. It’s not an option anymore—it’s a necessity.”

“Practiced at its highest level, communications is so much more than PR or marketing. Smart, strategic communications defines, cultivates, and understands important audiences. It listens. It crafts and shares clear, compelling stories. It builds relationships and deploys influence. It convenes. It designs. It analyzes data and gathers intelligence. It creates conversations. It understands and directs the best of old and new power.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. The above extracts on the power of strategic and effective communications is taken from the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s web series, ‘The Case for Communications’.

Through a variety of case studies the series illustrates how smart, strategic communications helps organizations deliver high levels of impact. Examples of the case studies on offer range from how the World Wildlife Fund’s communications strategy increased media coverage of illegal poaching by 270 percent, to how effective communications contributed to the repeal of the US military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘ policy.

The editors hope that the series prompts social sector leaders to rethink the role and potential of communications as a key means by which powerful impact and success can be achieved.


Check out the series here