Themes » Youth-Led Advocacy » Key Steps

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King (African-American civil rights activist)


If you are thinking to plan an advocacy campaign yourself, then you can follow the 6 steps below:

Step 1: What needs to change?

Since advocacy is about identifying and calling for change, we need to be very clear about exactly what it is that we are trying to change. When defining an issue or problem, be clear and precise about it. Answer the questions: Why is it a problem? For whom is it a problem? What are the root causes of the problem? Why do you find this important?

In finding an answer to these questions, try to do some research and data collection about the problem to be able to analyze your cause.

  • You can also use the 'problem tree' model to analyse your problem. This is how it works: imagine a very big tree. A tree roughly consists of three elements: the roots, the trunk and the leaves. The roots of the tree represent the root cause(s) of the problem, the trunk of the tree represents the problem itself and the leaves of the tree represent the consequences of the problem.

The goal assists you in thinking about the desired impact and helps you to make clear what you are trying to achieve. 

The objectives you set enable you to monitor whether your advocacy strategy is successful (remember to keep them measureable!).
The activities are actions you organize to reach your objectives.

Goals: What do you hope to achieve in the long term?
Example: All young people should have access to HIV-counselling.
Objectives: What specific change or outcome do you want to achieve in short term?
Example: Increase availability of HIV counseling for young people at the local health clinics.
Activities: What are the tasks to reach your objective?
Example: Organize a stakeholder meeting, including the health district office, to discuss this issue.

Step 2: Who can make the change happen?

Once we have correctly identified what needs to change, we must look at who can make this change happen – in other words, who are we targeting? Targets can be primary or secondary:

• Primary targets are decision makers with the power to directly influence the change you are seeking and your advocacy expected result, like Members of Parliament, other policymakers, the village chief, community leaders...

• Secondary targets are individuals or groups that can influence the primary decision makers, like the advisor to the MP, schools, women’s groups, media representatives...

Step 3: How can I influence them to make the change?

The next step is to look at how we can influence these people to make the change happen. For this, we need to develop the right approach and the right tools to reach the identified targets effectively. Think about:

  • Whose support do you need to reach your goal?
  • Whose support do you already have?
  • How can you reach these people?
  • Who will benefit from your actions?

Approaches could be friendly, or brave and angry, finding common ground, or preparing for opposition arguments. Spend time to analyse each target before deciding on an approach.

There are many tools available for advocacy and you would need to list them all and then decide which ones you can use to be most effective. Having a budget would also help decide which tools you can use. Examples of tools are: factsheets, detailed reports, the media, demonstrations, meetings, petitions, public events, social media, etc.

Which message is going to inspire people around you to take action for your cause? When making your message, make sure it talks about the problem, the plan, the support and what you ask of your target audience. This toolkit for youth advocates from IPPF might help you in creating a strong message.

Step 4: Who can i work with?

For successful and sustained advocacy, you will need the support of a number of individuals and organizations. To create support for your issue, it is important to be able to network, participate in coalitions, and influence as many individuals and organizations as possible to join in. By working together with like-minded groups, you will have combined intelligence and resources.

Think about what kind of support you need. Ask yourself if someone else can help you do more. Think about others working on similar issues or those who could also gain from your advocacy

Step 5: What obstacles might I face? How can I overcome obstacles and risks?

Identifying potential obstacles or risks will help you be prepared in case something goes wrong. Remember to also come up with possible solutions and not only the problems!

A common obstacle to young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is people who do not agree that young people have these rights. Learn their arguments and main messages and prepare for difficult questions. You can ask them some difficult questions yourself!

Evidence is a piece of information that emerges from research and realities on the ground. This will support your message and make it stronger and help you make a sound argument. Arguments are based on facts and evidence and help you convince your audience of the importance of the problem. Also, personal stories can contribute to the argument.

Step 6: How will I monitor and evaluate my advocacy to prove it is working?

By now you are almost ready to start changing the world! But before you do so, it is important to put in place a way to track whether everything is going according to plan. This is known as monitoring. It helps you see if you are doing all the activities you planned, if you are following your timeline…

Evaluation is when you stop and look in detail at your work to see if you are indeed achieving the goals and objectives you set yourself in Step 1. Evaluating advocacy campaigns is not easy, but if you keep your activities simple, sit with your team regularly to talk about what went well and what needs to improve, and make sure you document everything in writing, photos, or videos, then you should be all set!


Now it is time to get out there, and spread your message to the world! You can do this in a lot of different ways, by talking to governments, policy makers, people in the private sector, etc. and using different tools (campaigns, petitions, debates etc). Have a look at the course on Awareness Raising to know how to start your own campaign!