The importance of designing advocacy - reflections from our masterclass

Charlie Gillon
February 27, 2020

This February, Astrolabe Group's Michael Comninos and Charlie Gillon facilitated a masterclass on designing fit for purpose advocacy.

This is an important skillset to develop to secure support for your outcomes - whether working in local councils, government, private or not for profit.

At Astrolabe we approach fit for purpose advocacy using the ‘strategic triangle’. Breaking advocacy into three component parts – legitimacy and support, organisational capacity, and community value – provides a model to best structure your advocacy efforts. Using these components assists you to understand not only what your goals for your advocacy work are, but what you need to do to target your message and to who, as well as who you need to work with to get there.

So what does this look like in practice?

The masterclass focused on how important it is to understand your authorising environment. In most cases, the authorising environment is the machinations of government. Negotiating with government bodies can be difficult, and in order to effectively negotiate with government as a client or collaborator it is important to understand the particular needs and restrictions of public administrations. The session explained the complex structure of the NSW public sector, and how to identify who is responsible for decision-making.

This authorising environment is directly linked to the political process. Advocacy cycles accelerate around elections, when the government will be more receptive to particular messages and particular types of projects. For example, projects that effect marginal seats are prioritised in the allocation of funding and resources. The reverberations of this prioritisation will influence your authorising environment. In NSW we have many Council elections happening in September, where priorities over the next political cycle are most able to be advocated for to affect change.

About our masterclasses

One of our guiding principles is ensuring we have an understanding and empathy for our clients. Our intimate masterclasses give each attendee the space to speak, be heard, and display their knowledge and expertise. Check out some thoughts from some of the attendees below:

“I found it extremely insightful. I think it also just validated through science and systems thinking the gut feelings and hunches you have when you’re trying to map out strategies for advocacy. For me, it was sensational, and I would like to do more” – Lisa McLean, Open Cities Alliance

“I found it really fascinating... It’s really good to see the theory of public value applied in a strategic context. I also got a lot value out of the other people in this room, and found that all the experience we have made this a very interesting conversation” – Samantha Strachan, Liverpool City Council

“It’s enlightening to see that the methodologies and thinking about how you’re thinking about tackling advocacy is common across any organisation, whether you’re in the private sector, NGO. You can see behind the curtain – very cool” – Dan Hughes, Lake Macquarie City Council

“For me, I think Astrolabe’s political understanding and political appreciation gives a very practical and honest and successful analysis of how to be an advocate in this environment. They did a great job in pulling out our deeper insights, based on our different practice experience, and used a case study that also challenged us in simple, quick, and clever ways. Astrolabe is doing an interesting piece of work in areas that we need to talk more about” – Bella Vincent, Infrastructure Consultant


The article includes information presented at the Masterclass ‘Designing fit for purpose advocacy’. Astrolabe Group equips organisations with the tools and strategies needed to work with government to maximise public value. If you would like to know more contact Charlie Gillon.

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