The main aim of advocacy is to shift policy, by transforming and influencing ideas within the public realm. For SRH Serbia the role of advocacy gained substantial momentum from the 2005. Therefore, we believe that advocacy is an important activity for NGOs to be involved with, in order to drive and assist achieving sustainable development.
Advocacy became integrated into SRH Serbia from 2003, but from 2010 our commitment strengthened. Following our Advocacy strategy, the rights holders are central to the work conducted by SRH Serbia.
SRH Serbia believes that behaving in a sustainable way is implicitly expected and not doing so increases our reputational risk. This is true, as advocating for sustainability is central to us, our missions and purpose.
Advocacy is increasingly important and can have a positive effect by increasing awareness about issues NGOs are currently involved in, hence creating a global reach. Therefore, due to the plentiful supply of information, supporters and citizens become better informed about the issues countries face and how they can help get involved. If an NGO has a stronger brand, they are likely to gain more of an advantage allowing them to grow and develop, benefitting the communities they are involved with and aim to assist.
There are three main forms of advocacy, by the people, with the people and for the people. Advocacy by the people involves those who are immediately affected. They have legitimacy and can negotiate and come to an agreement based on their wants and needs as individuals. Advocacy with the people, is where communities and others work together to advocate on similar issues. Finally, advocacy for the people is where people and organisations advocate on behalf of those who are affected by specific issues. This is the type of advocacy that SRH Serbia is predominantly involved with. NGOs have come to mobilise, articulate and represent people’s interests or concerns. This is prevalent within authoritarian countries, where society is constrained and do not have freedom of speech, making them unable to express their feelings and views (Jordan and van Tujl, 1998).
Effective advocacy involves measuring the effectiveness of policy. If advocacy was effective it would mean that the alliance achieved its policy goals by influencing decision makers. Most NGOs expect their advocacy to work like a dripping tap. This means that policy changes take a while to occur, as a variety of opposing agencies and individuals need to alter their actions to enforce this shift in policy. If this proves successful, the tools will be implemented into other advocacy areas to ensure it remains effective, by bringing positive impacts for the community, such as influencing policy change.
A key opportunity for effective advocacy is through technology, which has impacted policy advocacy. Specifically, through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Social media has been seen to dominate discussions on advocacy, due to the ease of use and the ability to spread advocacy messages globally, particularly to the younger generation who are more receptive to these messages. Due to more people being aware of the work they do, the more positive impact advocacy can have on vulnerable communities. The key opportunity for effective advocacy through social media, is the ability to measure the publics reactions to advocacy messages through actions such as liking, commenting on, favouriting and sharing messages. Thus, NGOs now have access to quantitative and comparable data, enabling them to measure the relative effectiveness of their advocacy messaging strategies, to enable them to improve in the future.
Another key opportunity for effective advocacy is the ability to change perceptions and shift policy.