Five steps to strategy success – learning from Tanzania

This week, I’ve been reflecting on my first Country Office Mission with UNICEF. Last October, two colleagues and I ran three day workshop with the Tanzania Office to a) identify their advocacy priorities and design corresponding strategies, and b) to build the advocacy and campaigns knowledge, skills and confidence of staff members across the office.

We were hugely inspired by our colleagues in Tanzania, and left feeling excited and optimistic about their plans.

As I plan for my next Mission to Nepal, I’ve been thinking about what made this Mission a success. This prompted me to chalk up five quick reflections around what it takes to run integrated campaigns, sparked by my time in Dar es Salaam.

  1. Prioritization is key. Our colleagues in Tanzania worked hard to both identify the key themes that would benefit from advocacy, and the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound opportunities within these. As UNICEF works across such broad, intersecting issues, this approach can feel counter-intuitive, but it is a necessary part of advocacy success. Integrated advocacy and campaigns require a whole-office approach, which is only appropriate and achievable for a small number of issues. Likewise, our advocacy targets need this clarity and we need to be sure of our contribution.
  2. Advocacy as a wedge. But this doesn’t mean integrated advocacy strategies ignore these broader issues. The key to choosing your advocacy priorities is identifying ‘wedge’ issues – those areas where tangible progress will wedge open the door to broader policy or practice change. For example, in Tanzania a specific focus on stunting emerged as a clear opportunity to drive broader progress on Early Childhood Development.
  3. Strategy is a team sport. One important aspect of our workshops is that they bring colleagues together to work through the right strategic approach. The best strategies are those that are developed with input from different specialisms, backgrounds, and perspectives. We need this diversity to challenge our assumptions, identify the most creative tactics, and secure buy-in for the whole-office approach advocacy needs. We were so impressed by the amazing team work of our Tanzania colleagues – with National Officers, UN Volunteers and Programme Chiefs learning from each other and working together to design a way forward.
  4. All strategy is choice. Advocacy strategies are an art, not a science – indeed, during our workshops participants complete an ‘advocacy canvas’. This is because all advocacy is based on educated assumptions – we do extensive research on our targets, so we have as much information as possible about what will move them, but we can never be 100% certain. Likewise, we choose an approach based on our brand or our resources, not a pure scientific analysis of what works. In Dar es Salaam, we ran through a series of questions to build strategies around the expert knowledge of our colleagues. By keeping this process fluid, and not locked down in one product, we can respond to events and course-correct should our initial choices not succeed.
  5. Leadership = success. Strategy is meaningless without action. Action is only possible with leadership that supports colleagues to prioritize advocacy in their day to day work. From joining the workshop for the full three days, to setting clear targets for future action, the senior leaders in Tanzania transformed this process and will be critical in driving the whole-office approach needed to deliver change.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn

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