Working through the first four sections of the workbook, your group may have identified an issue they would like to work on. Once the group has an understanding of what policy is and how it affects food security, this section describes a process that can be taken to increase your ability to influence policy.

The process of influencing policy can be broken down into four broad and interrelated steps:

  1. Do your homework – know your issues, goals, supporters and opposition

  2. Identify and engage stakeholders and develop networks – make connections between different people and different groups

  3. Know the policy process, policy tools and public policy makers

  4. Take action!

The worksheets provided in this section will help you with each of these steps. Use them to help you describe your issue, know the policies you need to address, and where to go, who to approach and what to do to make things happen.

You may go back and forth between the steps (and the worksheets) during this journey but completing them all will help you have the best chance at policy change.

The Food for Thought on page 50 gives examples of many policy change strategies that we learned about in our environmental scan of policy change activities across Canada.

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Step 1.
Know your issues, goals, supporters and opposition.

The more you know about your issue and the clearer you are about what you want to achieve, the more effectively you will be able to make your case. To make a strong case for doing something about your issue, you must present your issue with statistics, information and stories that show:

  1. how many people are affected.

  2. how broad the impact is (for example, it's impact on health, economy, environment, community, etc.).

  3. how long it has been going on for and what will happen if it is not addressed by healthy public policy.

The information and activities in Sections 1 and 2 of this workbook will help you become more familiar with the broad issue of food security, pinpoint the key issues that affect you, and begin to come up with your views on what needs to be done to address your issue. For example Activity 2.1 “What does food insecurity affect”, can be used to show the many impacts of food insecurity.

Where to get evidence to support your case:

Know who your supporters are

At this stage, it’s also very useful to get to know who your supporters are and who you might approach as supporters. Contact them and tell them about the work your group is doing. Discuss how your goals may be similar to theirs and try to gain their support for your work. See below for ideas for who your possible supporters might be.

Understand your opposition’s point of view

Getting to know your opposition can help you to understand their viewpoint —remember, you don’t have to agree with it, just understand it. This insight can help you to focus your arguments and activities in the most effective ways. It can also show you what areas people with other points of view will focus on and help you direct your research so you’ll have information to counter their position.

Possible supporters:

Worksheet 5.1

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Step 2.
Identify and engage stakeholders and develop networks

Once you have an understanding of how policy is made, and who makes policy related to your issues your next move is to “advocate” to get your issue on the agenda of the relevant policy makers.

This is where your research, insight and commitment to your issue pay off. You can have an impact in policy development if you know your issue, present your ideas and evidence clearly, and are prepared with solutions.

Any argument is more persuasive if there are many voices supporting it. Broad support is particularly important when you are trying to get your issue on a politician’s agenda. If you can convince a politician that he or she will please many voters by acting on your issue, you are more likely to win over the politician. Building networks and involving groups and individuals who also have a stake in the issue can bring that “bigger voice” forward.

Politicians may agree to a certain policy action but it may never be implemented. One big voice, including many stakeholders who are working on the same issue and advocating for the same cause, can be a key factor in keeping an issue on the policy agenda. A united, consistent voice can help to make sure the issue remains in the spotlight.

Worksheet 5.2

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Step 3.
Know the policy process and the policy makers.

The policy development process at the government level can be lengthy and complex. It helps to understand how an issue becomes a policy issue and what happens from there.

Here is an example process of how public policy is made. It shows how long and complex it can be.

Politicians may agree to a certain policy action but it may never be implemented. One big voice, including many stakeholders who are working on the same issue and advocating for the same cause, can be a key factor in keeping an issue on the policy agenda. A united, consistent voice can help to make sure the issue remains in the spotlight.

Initiation: An issue is brought to the attention of policy-makers and put onto the political agenda.

Priority Setting: The issue is looked at in terms of the many competing issues that need to be acted on.

Formulation: Policy goals are set and the policy direction is developed.

Legitimation: Research is done to determine what has been done in the past, what has been successful and what hasn't worked.The policy is written.

Implementation: The policy is put into action.(See Activity 4.3: Using Policy Tools)

Interpretation and Evaluation: Under ideal conditions the effectiveness and impact of the policy are monitored and evaluated, however, this is the part of the policy process that often does not occur.

Who are the key policy makers?

Local - Mayor, City Councillors, members of special committees

Provincial - MLAs, Premiers, Department Ministers

Federal - Senators, Prime Minister, Department Ministers

Aboriginal Governance - Chiefs, Council, Minister of Indian Affairs


Policy Tools

In Section 4, Activity 4.3 helped participants think about various policy tools used to address issues. Refer back to this activity on page 38. You could use this activity again if you get stuck.

 Locating Public Policy Makers

Since all levels of government—federal, provincial and local —make public policy, deciding which level of government to approach is a critical step. You need to locate the people who are responsible for developing policy on the issue you are interested in. It helps if he or she is interested in your issue and willing to move it forward on the policy agenda. But even if the policy maker is not initially sympathetic, it’s your job to try and change his or her mind!

It’s a good idea to establish and maintain good relations with the policy makers you deal with —whether they agree with you or not. Influencing policy can sometimes take a long time, and in the long run you’ll be more effective if you make as many friends —and as few enemies —as possible.

Worksheet 5.3

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Take Action!

At this point, you’ve identified your issue, done your research, and identified the relevant policy makers, stakeholders and potential partners. The next step is to develop an action plan.

Worksheet 5.4 is a check list to help you think about what strategies you might use in your action plan and make sure you are ready to act. Strategies for action are outlined in Section 6 on page 61.

You can use Worksheet 5.5 to help you plan. You may have more than one strategy so photocopy this sheet to use for each one.

 This requires developing an action plan.You need to decide:

Worksheet 5.4, 5.5

In 2002, the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet of Manitoba mandated the establishment of the Northern Food Prices Project. The purpose of the project was to submit a report to the Committee identifying strategic options to address concerns about high food prices in northern Manitoba. Strategic options focused on reducing the retail price of nutritious foods such as milk and milk products (including infant formula and lactose-reduced products), fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, whole grains and other staples to northern citizens.

The activities in this section will help plan your strategy to influence policy change. These activities can be found at the top of the page.

section 5

Feuilles de travail 5.1-5-5

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People who are interested in, or affected by, an issue and who want to be involved in looking for solutions.


A combination of individual and social actions designed to gain political commitment, policy support, social acceptance and systems support for a particular health goal or programme.

From: World Health Organization, 1995 53 Thought About Food?— Section 5 Influencing policy

Public Policy Process

The process through which legislators or bureaucrats identify an issue and develop a public policy to address it.