#7 Steps To Advocate Trade Policies
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Every democratic country thrives on multitudes of interest groups, conflicting ideas, diversity of approach and assimilation of the same within the democratic process to influence policy decisions. While interest groups make up any thriving democracy, there is an organized structured framework for lobbying in democracies like the USA while others aren’t equipped structurally and some even ban it outright.
1. Empathise with status quo
Understanding the status quo and the reasons for resistance to the proposed policy is the key to advocate the process. The knowledge of points of conflicting interests, the segment of the population which supports/opposes it and the major concerns may not only bring their point of view to light, it will work like a thorough Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis of your position.
2. Frame the message
Advocacy is akin to an advertising message whose goals are multifold right from influencing the opinion of your position to a call to action at the place and time of your choosing. Framing the message to the audience involves pitching it in a manner that emphasizes the positive side to the decision-makers making it the dominant theme to stick to mind.
3. Stakeholder map
Create a map that involves stakeholders who are not just for your move but also against it while keeping the influencers who may not be direct stakeholders. Say, while advocating for Free Trade Agreement, advocacy groups should not only keep the power centers in the political and bureaucratic systems in mind but also the key trade and industry bodies as well as professionals who understand the matter. Over time, an ecosystem of consensus needs to seem to emerge.
4. Plan of action
A plan of action over a period of time to touch base with key personnel, movers and shakers in the industry and corridors of power should be drafted along with a strong PR & Social media campaign to include a wider number of thought-leaders. With the advent of social media & 24/7 news and engaged youth, it is essential to bring external pressure into the system by getting the average guy on the street on board. A thorough PR & Media plan must be an integral part of the plan.
5. Partisan /Bi-partisan
Advocacy groups may consider making the policy partisan by approaching the decision-makers most likely to favor the same while a bi-partisan approach to get a consensus across party lines would be difficult still. Ensuring that the issue doesn’t evoke extreme reactions from any end and become a political/bureaucratic wedge issue is of utmost importance. Whether partisan/bi-partisan route to take should be determined on how the policy plays out in corridors of power.
Execution of the plan should focus on ecosystem and representations from advocacy groups being the direct means is amongst the least effective ones. An effective PR & Social media mechanism focused on thought leaders of the particular segment would be the cornerstone of execution along with persistence. Over a long period of time, a thought-process of unanimity will take shape regarding a particular policy if executed well which will find takers in bureaucracy and political circles too. Familiarity with an idea makes it palatable to the mind and persistence over the years pays.
Once an idea prevails over all others and a dominant consensus seems to emerge regarding particular trade policy, the role of advocacy groups in pushing a sense of urgency in terms of opportunity cost is crucial. Without a sense of urgency, the whole movement may fizzle out as bureaucratic inertia of any country is strong enough to put the best things on freeze. Advocating is like winning an election – it is not just important to have a majority but also to get them out on the action on D-day. Constant exposure and familiarity make any reform seem less disruptive and an advocacy group should play a key role in enabling it.