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2

Message

The desire to influence policy starts when an individual or a group believes that an important issue is being overlooked or mishandled. Whilst delivering services or attending to community issues it is quite common for local groups to gain a deep understanding of policy initiatives and their implementation. Remember MPs, Ministers and local councillors are not usually experts in the fields they represent so community projects, researchers and providers of services hold valuable information that could benefit the policy cycle. 2.1 Building your case Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) projects must collectively translate the information and experience gained in the field into a clear message, a case or an argument. Although this might sound pretty straightforward it is crucial for groups to invest time in defining their message and what they want to achieve. There will be many conclusions and lessons derived from specific projects but not all will be relevant or necessary when influencing policymakers. Some questions that can help shape the message are:

• • • • •

What are we cross about – and what do we want to achieve? Where do we want to be? What is getting in the way? How will we recognise a win? What are we proud of and want to show-off?

There are many different types of policy issues and therefore messages that can be developed. They could address a flawed policy, a lack of policy or an incomplete one. However, regardless of the type of policy issue raised it is imperative that the message can be expressed in a short and simple form. The ground rule is KISS (keep it short and simple).

This might feel like oversimplifying a complex and multi-layered problem but initially a message needs to immediately let a person know what you are about, get their attention and be memorable so you can get your foot in the door to further discuss the issue. The details and complexity can be raised later. The message is not necessarily a slogan (it can be if one decides to set up a campaign) it is rather a 20 second ‘elevator pitch’ that all involved could easily use when the opportunity to influence arises. It should contain both the problem and the action that is being proposed. 2.2 Making your case It is important to identify at this point whether you are simply trying to raise awareness of a problem or actually proposing a way forward. One criticism frequently levelled at VCOs (voluntary and community organisations) is that they are very good at publicising the terrible state of the world but often unclear and unspecific about what they want done to put it right…policymakers have told us that VCOs usually approach them and ask them simply to ‘take up an issue’. This is not very useful. Policymakers need specifics…what causes the problem, clear evidence to back up the case and proposed solutions.1 Projects should consider the wider policy context in which their issue currently sits. Think about the impact that the changes you are proposing might have regarding other policies or their cost. If funding is an issue you are addressing, develop your argument to include: where the money would come from (employers, government, individuals); whether longer term savings might be made in other areas (e.g. investing in adult learning for people with mental health difficulties could result in reduced drugs bill); and whether the solution you propose is achievable all things considered. This will help you prepare for any counter-arguments you might come across. It is also important not to make any assumptions and to build up relevant evidence and a sound analysis that supports your case. This could include a combination of case studies, expert quotes, testimonies and hard-hitting statistics that should be kept readily at hand. Keeping track of all the policy documents is a time consuming task but effective influencing does require you to be familiar with the policies surrounding your issue. In addition to looking at Government websites and reading the summaries of the policy documents you can also monitor the websites of other organisations which have an established role in advocating on your subject. NGOs, trade unions and think tanks are likely to provide monitors of policy developments and summaries. 1 Kingham, Tess and Jim Coe (2005) The good campaigns guide, NCVO, p.25

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Getting_your_voice_heard_brochure  

Advice and guidance on influencing policy makers Here, you will find some simple but extremely effective ways in which you can maximise your...

Getting_your_voice_heard_brochure  

Advice and guidance on influencing policy makers Here, you will find some simple but extremely effective ways in which you can maximise your...

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