The process of influencing policy can be broken down into four broad and interrelated steps:
Do your homework – know your issues, goals, supporters and opposition
Identify and engage stakeholders and develop networks – make connections between different people and different groups
Know the policy process, policy tools and public policy makers
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.
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:
how many people are affected.
how broad the impact is (for example, it's impact on health, economy, environment, community, etc.).
- 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:
- Community service directories identify other groups, agencies and organizations that are working on similar issues/problems.
- Population health status data are often available from your local government statistics agency, public health unit, district health councils or health research organizations in universities.
- Socio-demographic data provide information on key social and economic variables in your community (e.g. household income, education level, food bank use). This information can allow you to compare your community to others in your province or across the country.
- Research studies including needs assessments, research reports and journal articles can help you to get to know your issue. This type of information can be located through searches at reference libraries or keyword searches of on-line databases such as Medline or PubMed.
- Newspaper or magazine articles can provide information about the problem or issue. Paying particular attention to articles that refer to controversy surrounding the issues will help you to identify your supporters and/or opposition. Adapted from: Health Communication Unit at the Centre for Health Promotion, University of Toronto, 2004
- The internet can also be a valuable tool for researching an issue and examining differing perspectives. Typing key words into a search engine like www.google.ca can uncover a wealth of information and ideas. In Section 7 Resources and Tools (page 81), we’ve included a few helpful websites to get you started.
Know who your supporters areAt 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 viewGetting 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.
- Citizens — community members affected by or interested in the issue
- Volunteer and Non-profit Organizations — locally, provincially, nationally and internationally
- Businesses and Industry
- University researchers working in the area
- Media — local or independent media groups, individual journalists
- Government — departments, divisions, working groups, politicians
- Professional Associations and Organizations
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
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
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
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:
Why are you doing this?
What's your long-term goal?It's always good to know where you're headed.If you lose sight of this, you can get bogged down in details and become discouraged.
What will you do now?
What's the first task toward achieving your long-term goal? For example, your long-term goal might be to have Income Assistance rates raised to the point where recipients can buy healthy food.But you won't achieve that in a day.So you can break it down into a series of short-term activities that all lead toward that ultimate goal.So your first step might be to hold a public meeting to raise awareness of the issue.Or it may be to arrange a meeting with a local politician to talk about the issue. Section 6 talks about strategies for action.
Who will do it?
Who is the best person - or persons - to do this task?
Keep in mind that some activities - for example, a workshop - require a lot of advance planning and organizing.You need to figure out all the tasks involved and assign someone to do each one.In the case of a workshop, you need to know: Who will invite people to participate in the workshop?Who will find a facilitator?Who will find a location?Who will see if participants need transportation?Who will handle food?Will you need childcare?Who will set the agenda for the day?
When planning any kind of activity involving more than one person, you will also need a coordinator - someone whose job it is to keep track of what's being done and make sure all the pieces come together as planned.
How will we do it?
What tools will each person need to achieve their task?
When will it be done?
Every task needs a completion date.A coordinator comes in handy for keeping everyone on track and on time.
What resources and supports do we need?
Resources can be both human - people with the skills you need - and material - for example, meeting space, refreshments, use of photocopier, etc.Partners are a good source of support and assistance.
Policy change happens when people keep working toward it.Every activity leads into the next and it's important to keep the cycle and momentum going forward.So after every action, take stock, celebrate your success and plan your next move.
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.
Feuilles de travail 5.1-5-5