The goals and objectives of advocacy
The goals and objectives of advocacy are to facilitate change and the development of new areas of policy, in order to tackle unmet health needs or deal with emerging health needs in a given community.
A goal is the desired result of any advocacy activity. An advocacy goal will usually be a long-term result, and it may take three to five years of advocacy work to bring about the desired result. It is unlikely that your advocacy network can achieve a goal on its own; it will probably require other allies to bring about the required change. It is vital to know what you are trying to do before you start your advocacy work. This involves developing a goal that applies to the situation that needs to change.
Important points to note about goals are as follows:
- A goal is the overall purpose of a project. It is a broad statement of what you are trying to do.
- A goal often refers to the benefit that will be felt by those affected by an issue.
- A goal is long term and gives direction — it helps you know where you are going. It needs an accompanying route map or strategy to show you how to get there.
- Without a goal, it is possible to lose sight of what you are trying to do.
- A goal needs to be linked to the mission and vision of your organisation.
Consider which of the following could be considered health advocacy goals:
- Significant reduction of malaria in this district
- Reduction of infant mortality in this community
- Washing hands after using the latrine is helpful in combating stomach upsets and other infections
- Improvement in literacy in this district
- Mosquito nets are useful in helping combat malaria.
3 and 5 are health education messages, but not goals. However, they could be turned into goals. All the other statements are goals, and you can probably recognise them as the overall purpose of the sort of health education work that community health professionals are frequently involved in.
Moving on from goals, an advocacy objective is measurable, realistic, and time-bound. While setting your objectives, remember that your objectives should be 'SMART'.
'SMART' is a way of reminding you that your objectives should be:
S Specific — by this we mean that you need to set a specific objective for each of your health programmes.
M Measurable — your objective should be measurable.
A Achievable — the objective should be attainable or practicable.
R Realistic — which also means credible.
T Time-bound — and should be accomplished and achieved within a certain amount of time.
An objective is the intended impact or effect of the work you are doing, or the specific change that you want to see. The word 'objective' often refers to the desired changes in policy and practice that will be necessary to help you and your community meet that goal. It is the most important part of your strategy, and is the next step after developing the goal itself. It is worth spending time writing clear objectives, because you will find you are able to write the rest of the advocacy strategy much more clearly — and you are likely to be more effective in achieving change.
When you set an advocacy objective, always consider or keep in mind the resources available in your locality. It is important that an advocacy objective identifies the specific policy body in the authority that should be approached to fulfil the objective, as well as detailing the policy decision or action that is desired. For example, if you want to overturn the ban on community-based distribution of contraceptives, then the right target to direct your advocacy towards would be the Ministry of Health.
In contrast to a goal, an advocacy objective should be achievable by the network on its own. It is a short-term target, which means it should be achievable within the next one or two years. The success of your advocacy objectives should always be measured. For example, if the objective of an advocacy programme is to ask the district health office to fund a specific health programme, then the success of the objective can be measured quite easily by finding out whether or not the district health office has allocated money for that programme.
Below is a SMART objective. Read it through carefully and see if you can spot all the SMART elements in it. How is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely? Don't worry at the moment if you can't find all the features. As you become familiar with SMART objectives, you will find that you can develop and read them very easily.
SMART objective: To increase the number of women taking contraceptives in a specific health facility by 20% in two years.
The objective is SMART for the following reasons:
- It is specific because the proposed increase is 20%.
- It is measurable because the number of women who are taking contraceptives can easily be measured.
- It is achievable because a 20% increase means a change from the existing 20 women to about 24 or 25 women. This should be possible.
- It is relevant because the current uptake of contraceptive services is low.
- It is time-bound because the objective should be accomplished within the next two years.
All your advocacy objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. The objectives should always be linked to the available resources. In a sense, this is part of the feature of achievability. Unless you have available resources, you will not be able to achieve your objectives.
To understand the differences between goals and objectives, remember that an advocacy issue is where there is a problem. Perhaps in your community there has been low immunization coverage due to inaccessible services for mothers with young children. This is an issue that advocacy might be able to tackle.
In this example, an advocacy goal would be gaining the commitment of community leaders for better access to immunization for the people in their community. In contrast, an advocacy objective would be to identify that you should conduct meetings with community leaders in order to discuss this problem.