The Citizen Handbook

Citizen Participation

Citizen Tools for Participation

Lobbying & Advocacy

Lobbying is the practice of engaging with governments, often from outside, to support change, request information or to hold officials accountable for their commitments.

Identify & Engage Key Stakeholders

   · Identify individuals who have the greatest influence on the decision-making process - it is important to locate contact information for key stakeholders during your initial research.

   · Develop a target list of names from community leaders, elected politicians, government officials, and other civil society groups.

   · Stay in touch informally with these contacts so that you develop a relationship of trust with them before you have to approach them.

After communicating with your list of contacts, identify influential individuals who support or are interested in your point of view. Even if your supporters do not have decision-making power directly linked to your issue of interest, they may be able to help you by exerting influence on the key decision-makers. Elected representatives are not the only ones who hold influence.  Be sure to develop relationships with staff that work with elected officials.

Key Principles of Lobbying

   · Be accurate and honest. If you do not know the answer to a question, then say so.

   · Be brief and to the point. For written communication, try to limit yourself to a page or less.

   · Have a specific goal and state it clearly.

   · Recognize your opposition.  Be aware of the main arguments for and against your position.

   · Demonstrate to decision-makers how your interest is relevant to their work.

   · Consider the decision-maker’s perspective. Try to find a way to make your position align with their values and interests.

   · Follow up by sending a thank you note or making a phone call.

   · Recognize and appreciate any effort made toward supporting your cause.

Tips for Successful Lobbying

Important meetings and negotiations require preparation. Practical considerations make a difference such as where to hold a meeting – for example, people usually feel more comfortable meeting an official on their own home area rather than going to an office in the city/town. Additionally, hold a group session prior to the meeting so you and your group can prepare talking points and questions. This will help make you and your group more confident in the meeting. Key questions to cover in this kind of preparatory group session are:

   · What is the group’s reason for attending the meeting?

   · Who among the group is going to attend the meeting?

   · What are the issues the group should raise?

   · What questions should the group ask and who will ask them?

   · What solutions have you already identified?

   · When and how do you propose that your issue should be resolved?

   · What should/can the person you are meeting with do to help?

   · What are the next steps you want to agree on with the official before leaving the meeting?

Modes of Communication

You can communicate directly through face-to-face meetings, phone calls or email. You can also communicate indirectly by placing your message in a newspaper article or advertisement, or in a speech at a public event. If the person you are pursuing indicated a preferred way of communicating with them, you should always respect his or her preference and communicate using the desired means.

Prepare a One-Pager

Before you approach officials or elected members for a meeting, it is useful to prepare a one-page document that will have your contact information, outline the issue, list important facts, and propose solutions. Your one-pager should be clear, concise, brief, and to the point. Your name and contact information should be noticeable on the page, and you should provide website links for more information. Bring this one-pager to any meeting you attend.

Letter Writing & Email Campaigns

Mass letter or email campaigns can be effective if you can get enough people to submit letters, postcards or emails. If you have enough submissions, your audience will be more aware of your issue, and the State or public official you are targeting will understand its relevance to many people as a result.

Phone Calls

If meeting a State or public official in person is difficult, you can try to arrange a phone call. Once you have the call scheduled, try to deliver your one-pager before it begins. Make sure that you are on time for the call and are prepared to deliver your message in a clear, concise and convincing manner. Make sure you end the call by asking what the official intends to do about your issue. Be sure to ask if you can provide him/her with any further information and thank them for their time and consideration - tell them you will be following up.

In-Person Meetings

Face-to-face meetings are the most effective way to engage officials and elected members in a dialogue. People are more likely to acknowledge your issue and then take some sort of action when you are directly in their presence. When you schedule an in-person meeting, be respectful of the person’s schedule by being on time. Do not expect to spend hours discussing your issue, so be prepared to deliver your presentation quickly and clearly. Always thank the official for taking the time to meet with you and, if present, thank his/her staff as you leave.

Follow-up & Relationship Building

Always send a thank you note when you have a phone call or face-to-face meeting. Include in your note a summary of the discussion, the next steps you expect to see, and include any further information they may have requested during your meeting.  Hand written notes are best, but sometimes an email is the fastest way to follow up.  Be sure to ask the person how s/he would prefer you follow up with them. Continue to stay in touch after your meeting.  It is good to send updates to this person at regular intervals on the issue(s) you discussed with them. 

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