Eighteen (18) officials from SACAU member organisations and We Effect partners were trained on how to effectively influence agricultural policies in their respective countries from 20th to 23rd June 2017.
The 4-day training took place in Pretoria, South Africa and focused on practical aspects of designing and executing effective advocacy plans. Ten (10) basic steps for effective advocacy and how one could become a good lobbyist were the backbone of the discussion. “Policy change is driven by specific individuals in an organisation, and as such, effective influencing should aim at persuading such individuals in the organisation for change. These are the people that could drive the desired change”, said the trainer Mr Antoon Blokland. People tend to be conservative and they don’t change easily.
The starting point is to understand values and interests of the change agents and ensure that your propositions do not compromise these values. Stepping into the shoes of the powerful is the way to know their values and interests. He emphasised this as the main task of a lobbyist. A clear message was that influencing policy is a long-term process and that a good lobbyist will always aim at having a plan that will address issues bit by bit.
Sometimes there is a need for a three to fiveyear plan with specific milestones along the period. In addition, Mr. Blokland stated that issue-driven influencing is more effective and efficient than organisational-based influence that deploys a one size fits all approach. Trainees were informed that change agents differ per issue, thus issue-driven strategies take these differences into account. Thus, influencing should be tailor-made to the context of the issue and the capacities of the organisation. Participants then applied the theory to address real policy bottlenecks from their respective countries and came up with plans for advocacy on these issues. The general feedback was positive, and one participant pointed out that “this training has given insights and strengthened my skills to be structured and pro-active policy influencer.”