How we maximize impact through advocacy

Monday, February 6, 2023

Engaging in local, national, and global advocacy is vital to improving the lives of the most vulnerable. The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance funds strategic advocacy programming that complements our resilience-building interventions. Our latest learning report, produced by ISET-International in collaboration with several Alliance partners, features examples of successful advocacy in our work across the world.

The vision of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is a world in which floods have no negative impact on peoples’ or businesses’ ability to thrive. As well as delivering community-based programs, we are engaged in strategic advocacy efforts that seek to encourage the prioritization of vital flood resilience work.

A discussion at a community gathering near Birathnagar, Terai, Nepal. Both Mercy Corps and Practical Action are working with communities in Nepal to ensure their voices are heard by decision-makers. Photo: Michael Szoenyi

Advocacy success stories

Alliance teams across the globe are increasingly engaging with decision-makers at all levels to influence government policy, spending, and practice in ways that support local resilience. Our latest learning report gathers together achievements made through country-level advocacy, including:

  • the scaling up of community-based early warning systems and approaches in Peru and Nicaragua, benefitting hundreds of thousands of people; 
  • the expansion of community brigades in Mexico, where improved coordination between local government and communities is changing local risk governance; 
  • governments better coordinating to enable early warning and early action in El Salvador, improving understanding and uptake of forecasts;  
  • increased and institutionalized local Disaster Risk Reduction budgets in Nepal, with local governments investing in a wide range of interventions including nature-based solutions.  
  • local governments in the UK and Indonesia using Alliance resilience data to support re-envisioning urban planning in ways that challenge conventional flood risk reduction thinking; and 
  • local civil society and communities in Honduras and Bangladesh increasingly empowered to successfully advocate for their resilience needs. 

Top tips for advocacy

After observing the various ways in which success was achieved by Alliance teams around the world, we identified some common threads. This has helped us to create a ‘tip sheet’ which can help other actors conduct successful advocacy in their own particular context. It outlines the foundational elements, building blocks, and tactics we have seen our teams use to achieve advocacy successes.

More detail on exactly which tactics each team used are available in the individual case studies, contained within the report (and also available here). These clearly illustrate how teams tailored, linked and layered the elements detailed in the tip sheet to achieve their goals.

Alliance team members displaying one of the top tips that proved successful in their own advocacy efforts. Clockwise from top left: Imam Nur Huda (Mercy Corps, Indonesia) | Walther Mendoza (Plan International, Nicaragua) | Dr Sara Mehryar (London School of Economics, UK) | Mohammed Nabinur Rahman (Concern Worldwide, Bangladesh) | Josefina Mondragon (the Red Cross, Mexico) | Krity Shrestha (Practical Action, Nepal)

For example:

  • In Bangladesh, Concern Worldwide’s example shows how providing communities and governments with hard evidence of capacities and needs, whilst simultaneously strengthening community-government relationships, can lead local governments to invest in resilience;   
  • Plan International’s work in El Salvador illustrates how involving levels of government in community learning (through establishing relevance, building relationships and more) creates opportunities for influence, while the Nicaragua team explains how early warning systems can be leveraged as an entry point for influencing government adoption of resilience practice; 
  • In Indonesia, Mercy Corps highlights how locally-grounded evidence can be used strategically and consistently at multiple levels to influence comprehensive policy change;
  • In Nepal, Practical Action illustrates how community-defined priorities can be institutionalized and operationalized in ongoing local-level planning processes;
  • The Red Cross Honduras points to how to create and build the capacity of a sub-national advocacy alliance in a relatively short-term program, and in Mexico they show how long-term, consistent sharing of learning and experience by practitioners can result in successful advocacy outcomes.  

Though these examples are drawn from diverse contexts, the foundational elements, building blocks, and tactics are essentially the same. The broad applicability of these elements and approaches makes them relevant for similarly interested organizations.

This diagram captures the top tips for advocacy that we identified, as well as the foundational elements required for success. Image: ISET-International

Want to learn more?

Join our next webinar on Wednesday 8 February at 15.00 CET to hear from Alliance colleagues, and take a closer look at ways they successfully advocated for change:

  • Sajan Neupane (Mercy Corps, Nepal) will present on how filling data gaps in data-deficient contexts supports the development of new policy and investment;  
  • Giorgio Madueño (Practical Action, Peru) will speak on how phased, long-term engagement fosters co-creation and adoption of climate-adaptive technologies by national government; and  
  • Sara Mehryar (Grantham Institute for Research at the London School of Economics, UK) will highlight how, in higher-resource contexts, comprehensive resilience data can be used to spur more coordinated and systems-level decision-making.  

For more details, and to register, visit the webinar event page.

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