Setting Policy Advocacy Goals

Effective policy advocacy requires a highly specific understanding of the problem and why it exists, a capacity to use many different types of tools to tackle different challenges, and a clear-­eyed focus on results. This requires an identification of both long-term ambitious goals, as well as much smaller interim goals that are more immediately achievable. This page will guide you to set both long-term and short-term policy advocacy goals. As you create your policy advocacy goals, it might be helpful to reference the Policy Advocacy Strategies section of the toolkit to help you better conceptualize the type of strategies and associated activities you may wish to take to achieve your goal.

When you are planning your policy advocacy goals, you should be able to identify an overall objective (the total solution), as well as a series of incremental goals that work toward the overall objective. The breakdown of your end goal into short-term goals is especially important as policy advocacy is usually a long-term process.

In most cases, your planned actions will focus on an incremental goal. Meanwhile, the overall goal will be a comprehensive project that brings together multiple actions. For each incremental goal that you plan to pursue, you should be able to identify an activity that your organization will take, why this activity may lead to success, and the risks of failure.

For example, consider a government that detains refugees arbitrarily for long periods of time on a wide scale. In this case, the long-term and short-term goals may include the following.

Long-term goal:

  • End arbitrary detention of refugees

Short-term goals:

  • Publish story or op-­ed on the detention problem in a newspaper or other media outlet
  • Induce the government to defend its policies, which is potentially the beginning of a discussion about norms.
  • Reduce the number of people detained, or reduce the average amount of time spent in detention.

To set goals to measure progress in your policy advocacy work, you may consider:

  • What is the general objective of the advocacy project? Essentially, what outcome would constitute a total success?
  • Is this outcome likely to be accomplished in one single action within one single year? If the outcome is not likely to be accomplished in one single action within one single year, brainstorm incremental goals that would be steps in the direction of a total solution. It should be noted that incremental goals may reduce the severity of a problem and may also be actions by solution actors.
  • For each small action or outcome, what levers of influence might lead the relevant actor to act as needed?
Goal Actor Lever(s) of Influence