Things to consider when starting in advocacy

So you've identified an issue that you're passionate about. There's a great injustice in the world, people are suffering unnecessarily, or you just don't like the way that new development proposal will look. What do you do? You are just one person, right? Where do you start? How do you mobilise? How do you get support?

Defining the inner circle

The first thing you'll need to do is develop an inner circle of core activists to help run the campaign.

Often you'll be able to form a group quite easily, other times it won't be so easy. Ultimately it will come down to your networks and the networks of those you involve.

What position to take?

Once you have this group together it's important to set your boundaries. Certain issues need to be defined quite clearly and consensus must be reached on these core issues. Issues you may like to establish early on are:

Structural Vs Single Issue Campaigning

Structural campaigning addresses the root cause of an issue in an attempt to prevent it from happening again, while single issue campaigning is against something specific happening in one particular area. Single issue campaigns will usually enjoy wider support, whilst structural campaigns will generally have a greater effect.

Tactics to be employed

This usually comes down to a choice between direct action and indirect action; however, there's a lot of room to move within these categories. Direct action is often not suitable for people with children and families, things like film nights might be able to attract an older audience, and so on. For protest action to be effective you'll need to enjoy a wide level of support - so try not to alienate any of your constituency.

An ideological position

This is highly important to some groups, less so to others. Structural campaigns will generally have an ideological position, whilst single issue campaigns generally won't.


It's worth giving consideration to whether or not you would like to give the group a legal personality - to become incorporated. It's more important to become incorporated if you're actually forming an organisation with long-term ambitions. By incorporating you shift legal responsibility from the individual to the organisation, and you'll be eligible to receive grants and funding. You don't close all funding doors by staying unincorporated, but you will limit yourself. Incorporation can also provide some protection from being sued. If you're not incorporated, however, you're not required to fulfill the legal requirements associated with incorporation, and things like a hostile takeover of your organisation will never be an issue.


Again, this may not be such a big issue for many organisations. If you're entirely volunteer-based and won't be engaging in anything too costly then you probably don't need to worry about it. The advantage of this is that you maintain your independence. If you are going to need funds, however, you need to work out how you are going find them.

Being contactable

You need to be able to be contacted. This means you need to have (and to make known) a phone number, fax number, email address and postal address. If you don't want your postal address known publicly, set up a post office box. Mobile phones can also help if you don't have an office phone number you can hand out (but be careful, as this means you may well get calls at all hours).

Bank Account

If you're going to be getting any money you will need a bank account. You may also need a chequebook. For more details on setting up a bank account see the ICDA Financial Centre.

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