When it comes to advocacy work, don't be shy to ask

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 03 August 2015

Jennifer Johnston explains concepts in policy development to the audience at a Hepatitis Policy Advocacy Workshop. Photo by: CEVHAP

In 2010, two research scientists, frustrated with the lack of attention and movement associated in battling hepatitis, thought of setting up an advocacy group whose main purpose will be to push for public policy reform to reduce the burden of the disease in Asia-Pacific.

Without the necessary resources and with the two’s limited experience in advocacy work, however, it was difficult to get the idea off the ground.

But luck was on their side, and as Dr. Stephen Locarnini and Dr. Ding-Shinn Chen would later learn, all they really needed was to ask for help, which in their case came in the form of Jennifer Johnston, an advocacy expert who has been leading the Coalition for the Eradication of Viral Hepatitis in Asia-Pacific for the past five years.

Johnston, who has spent years in public policy and the private sector, has just set up her own public affairs consultancy firm Advocomm Australasia Pty Ltd., when the request came in. Back then, she was helping them convene a policy workshop in Beijing, China, with a group of clinicians and research scientists from different parts of the globe. While knowledgeable about hepatitis, these clinicians and scientists had little to no experience when it comes to policy work, which Johnston would later realize is “desperately needed in hepatitis.”

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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