I have just finished working for nearly six years as the policy adviser and manager at the Australian College of Midwives. As you can imagine, I have learned heaps about lobbying, advocacy, writing submissions, researching, and reacting to issues that arise very quickly.
Reflecting on the last few years, here are 5 tips for anyone wanting to move into the policy sector, from paid employee in a government department to volunteer role in a not-for-profit.
1. Be consistent with your message
It is very important to know what your organisation's position is and be consistent about it through the weeks, months and years. This applies not only to your own work, but also to the messages that are coming from the rest of the organisation, be it the communications' department, or key staff such as CEO or president.
If your organisation and you are giving out mixed messages, not only will you confuse your audience, but your credibility will be damaged and your ability to influence will be reduced.
2. Use any opportunity to send the same message
If you are wanting to make a point or send a particular message, use every opportunity to emphasise it. For example, in the last three submissions I wrote before leaving the ACM, I talked about continuity of midwifery care which is one of the ACM's key messages, yet the consultations/topics were very different - maternity services in general, breastfeeding, and stillbirth.
It's like being a leaky tap - drip , drip , drip until someone takes notice!
3. Keep a track of the latest research that will support your message
I found it so much easier to write a credible submission, or give a strong verbal message if I had current research to back up what I was trying to say. It's worth keeping a database or record of research that you know is credible and influential, and know it inside out so you can quote it whenever you are asked.
4. Build up a network of experts
Leading on from the last point, it is also worth building a network of experts who you can approach to help you understand a topic, critique research, and update you on the latest issues. It is likely that you will not be an expert in everything, so it is invaluable to know who you can turn to quickly for advice and information.
5. Collaborate with like-minded people and organisations
One of the most beneficial things I did in my role was connect with people doing similar work to me in other organisations. We kept each other updated with the latest news, collaborated to support each other on joint projects, and came together to send united messages. Collaborative action is often far more effective than working on one's own, especially when you are trying to influence government policy and politicians.
I hope you find this helpful information.
What have you found to be useful strategies when working to lobby or advocate in the policy space?