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Effective Advocacy: Develop Goals and Objectives

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The effective advocacy planning process:

A. Identify, examine, and understand the issue you want to address.
B. Identify the key actors and their roles and build relationships with appropriate actors.
C. Understand the system, what can be influenced, and what the leverage points are.
D. Develop goals and objectives.
E. Develop strategies, tactics, a plan of action, and a plan for evaluation.

Once you’ve chosen and understand your problem or issue, the key actors involved, the system around your problem, and the possible leverage points, you’ll want to develop your goals and objectives for intervention.

The ambitiousness of your goals and objectives will likely depend on whether you’re working as part of a group or on your own, what resources you have available, and the current social and political conditions. 

Here are some basic steps:

1. Outline a compelling vision.

Before you develop your specific goals and objectives, it can be helpful to outline your compelling vision. Consider what about your issue of concern is going to inspire people and motivate them to take action.

People are often motivated by emotion rather than logic, and they often gravitate toward a positive vision, rather than on one that focuses on violence and harm, so think about how you can frame your vision in a way that sparks passion and engagement from others.

You’ll also want to emphasize the solution, not just the problem.

For example, if your issue of concern is child trafficking, you may want to promote a compelling vision such as:

We’re working to create a world in which all children are able to exercise their basic rights and where they are free to learn, play, and thrive.


2. Develop your goals.

In developing your goals, consider the following:

  • Be clear about what “success” looks like.
    What’s the ideal that you’re working toward? You may want to draw, map, or write out what the world looks like when you’ve solved your problem, and outline how you’re going to get there.
  • Decide what area of your problem to focus on.
    Think about what strategies are going to get you the best results for your efforts. For example, in animal protection circles, some experts recommend focusing on farmed animal issues because that’s the arena in which the biggest numbers of animals are exploited.
  • Determine what the best way is to solve your problem.
    Use your previous research on the issue to determine the best way to solve your chosen problem. Is it policy change? Legislation? Shifting social norms? Influencing decision makers or corporations?
  • Verify successful strategies, tactics, and solutions.
    Look at the research to verify what evidence exists about successful strategies, tactics, and solutions regarding your issue. Who has already worked on this issue and what has been successful? What hasn’t?

    Then outline your goals. Choose realistic goals that will serve as checkpoints along the way.

    You’ll also want to prioritize your goals, likely based on which goals

    • have the best chance of success;
    • have the resources to be achieved;
    • can serve as leverage points for bigger goals; and
    • will attract allies and collaborators.
  • Narrow and prioritize your goals.
    Based on what you’ve learned, develop shorter-term and longer-term goals. Be sure to review your goals often, as they will probably need to change based on what happens with your implementation and evaluation.

    Be sure to choose goals that are achievable and realistic. “End war” is not currently seen by many as an achievable and realistic goal.

    Some of your goals may be focused on the issue itself, and some may be focused on the process, such as building community.

    The Change Agency offers a guide for “cutting the issue” to figure out how to narrow down a complex problem into something you can realistically address.


3. Outline your objectives.

Each of your goals needs specific objectives outlined so that your path is clear, you’ll know when you’ve gotten there, and you’ll know that your intervention is what made the difference.

The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound) method is useful for helping you outline your specific objectives.

Beautiful Trouble outlines basic definitions for each component.

For each of your goals, you may want to complete one or more SMART tables like the one below.

Here’s a very simplified example of a SMART objective from one of Phoenix Zones Initiative’s goals:

Our overarching goal is to secure legal protections for the most vulnerable (based on our policy priority to expand and extend legal rights for humans and animals).

One specific objective from our overarching goal is this: By 2023 we achieve clear policy changes to reduce international trafficking and abuse of children.

And one specific benchmark is this: US ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (We are working with and supporting other organizations to achieve this benchmark, including those who have been working on this issue for many years.)

SMART Objective:By 2023 we achieve clear policy changes to reduce international trafficking and abuse of children.
Baseline: (How do things currently stand?)It’s estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year worldwide.
SPECIFIC: (What exactly will you achieve?)Assist with US ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
MEASURABLE: (How will you know you have gotten there?)The UNCRC is ratified by the US.
ACHIEVABLE: (Is this objective realistic? Do you have the resources to get there?)Public opinion is on our side.
Political will is turning.
Some states have already introduced legislation that aligns with the goals of the UNCRC.
The US has already signed the Convention, which means the nation has already endorsed the spirit of the Convention.
RELEVANT: (How is this significant?)The US is the only UN member state to have failed to ratify the UNCRC, which influences policy and practice on the world stage.
TIMEBOUND: (When, specifically, will the objective be achieved?)By the end of 2023

Phoenix Zones Initiative aims for “SMARTIE” objectives, which are “SMART” and Inclusive and Equitable.

Attention to inclusivity brings historically marginalized individuals—particularly those most impacted—into SMART strategies and activities. Attention to equity includes a focus on fairness that aims to end systemic oppression or injustice.

As the Minnesota Department of Health suggests, for each objective, you’ll want to be able to complete a formula such as:

[Who] will do [what] resulting in [measure] by [when].
By [when], [who] will do [what] resulting in [measure].

You may also find it helpful to complete a Campaign Canvas from MobLab that outlines the essential components of an effective campaign.

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