The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Date: 2011
Team: Ann Pettifor, Helen Kersley, Sharmistha DasBarwa
Areas of expertise: Advocacy, Policy

For the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ai was commissioned to review the state of pro-poor advocacy in low income countries, and to make recommendations. The work involved a global and regional advocacy mapping exercise; the preparation, distribution and analysis of a questionnaire; interviews with leading players, and the production of a report.

The analysis of the results raised a number of key issues, summarised as follows:

  • Funding for pro-poor advocacy was considerably under-resourced.
  • As a result, networking at local, national, regional and international levels, was vital for pro-poor CSOs. Networking was valuable for sharing research, data and best practice, and also for adding weight and volume to advocacy arguments.
  • Links between northern and southern advocates on pro-poor development were weak.
  • Politically, national events were regarded by our participants as providing the strongest opportunities for effective advocacy, because NGOs/the public have more scope for holding their own government to account on ‘binding’ commitments.
  • International events, on the other hand, had value in agenda-setting, peer-pressure and shifting political attitudes, but less value in accountability terms.

We obtained very clear messages about the specific characteristics which advocates ascribe to effective advocacy:

  • A persistent vision and commitment to the process of advocacy over the long-term, combined with a flexibility that allows for opportunism.
  • Expertise, detailed research, evidence and case-building, alongside a thorough understanding of the relevant political and cultural context.
  • Strong communication skills; working relationships with opinion-formers and decision-makers, and skills in presenting the case in a compelling and accessible manner.
  • Strong networks and alliances between NGOs, stakeholders, local communities and donors.
  • Complementarity and diversity through shared overarching goals and messaging, but differences in approach and nuance.

We made the following recommendations:

1.       A long-term approach by donors was needed, to match the long-term nature of the advocacy process.  This would allow for additional resources to broaden advocacy from the current tendency to focus on obtaining commitments from decision-makers, to include the task of holding decision-makers to account for the delivery of those commitments at a national, regional and international level.

2.       Support for developing and building participatory democracy at the grass-roots level, especially in countries where representative democracy may be weak.

3.       Support for more liaison and networking, particularly between NGOs and social movements in the north and south for the purposes of consulting and agreeing advocacy goals; amplifying voices working on pro-poor development; sharing evidence, information and best practice;  ensuring the making of commitments; and working together to press for delivery of commitments to the poor.

4.       Resources to examine how monitoring and evaluation for advocacy can be strengthened, and what instruments and tools could be most applicable to advocacy gains.


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