Top skills to succeed in global development advocacy

By Emma Smith 12 May 2017

Whether you work in a dedicated advocacy role or wear an advocacy hat from time to time, here are the tops skills you should hone according to experts. Photo by: Viktor Hanacek

The role of advocacy is cross-cutting in global development, and critical to organizations in securing funding, shaping programs and creating sustainable change. While specific mandates vary from one organization to another, advocacy professionals are focused on influencing decisions within political, economic and social systems to better support their organization’s mission and benefit stakeholders.

Global development organizations can be engaged in advocacy at a local, national or international level and often have positions dedicated to these efforts. Inge Brees, senior European Union advocacy officer at CARE International, heads up the organization's advocacy in Brussels and focuses on influencing policies at an EU level. However, she says that in practice, the nature of advocacy as a cross-cutting issue means people often wear multiple hats — country directors, for example, who are responsible for program management might also practice advocacy to some extent through discussions with local authorities and in ensuring civil society space for their partners to work.

Whether it is your full time job or only a portion of your role, succeeding as a global development advocate requires the smart use of soft skills. Here is what advocacy experts say are the top skills you should hone.

Learn to listen

The ability to listen — to local communities, staff in the field or other stakeholders — is a fundamental skill for advocacy, critical to developing your understanding of issues and the potential challenges you face in creating change. Michelle Thulkanam, communications and advocacy officer at the World Health Organization Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, explained that listening forms the basis for any arguement.

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About the author

Emma Smith

Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.

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