Be a Better Advocate for Your Cause

Activists want to sell ideas – conservative ideas, liberal ideas, environmental ideas, and many other types of ideas. Social change necessarily depends on getting ideas and selling them effectively. Promoting new beliefs, laws, lifestyle choices, policies, programs, regulations, and values could (One hopes!) be done more effectively with the right tools and techniques applied at each stage of the process. This post is about new tools and techniques that can be used at each stage of the advocacy process.

1. Defining the Problem – What problem are you addressing here? What, specifically, do you want to accomplish? Thinkertoys and Cracking Creativity (both by Michael Michalko) describe some easy techniques for exploring a problem, or challenge if you like to keep things positive. Using one or two should give you a much clearer idea of what you want to do or need to do.

(If you are getting into the advocacy game after the challenge and general approach have been defined you can still use the tools and techniques referenced in the following sections.)

2. Defining a Good Idea – Take a few minutes ahead of time and think about the criteria that define a good idea. You need to at least spend a few minutes considering your audience, your resources, the social environment, and the timeframe in question.

3. Generating Ideas – Traditional, informal brainstorming could come into play at this stage. You know how to do that sort of brainstorming. You may not know about the many, many techniques that exist for generating ideas. Thinkertoys and Cracking Creativity describe many brainstorming tools. Try two of them, one traditionally “creative” and one systematic.

4. Evaluating Ideas – An informal process of comparing your list of ideas to the criteria that define a good idea. Many ideas are rather weak in their original form. Don’t worry about that! Take promising ideas and reinforce them. offers some guidance on strengthening your ideas.

5. Deciding What to Do – Taking time to formally study a decision is usually a good idea. Some decisions are simple enough to make without much research or analysis. For the other decisions that come at you, there is a need to develop a formal method for deciding what to do. The “Decision Making” menu option at mind summarizes many decision analysis techniques.

6. Doing Something – This is the obvious last step in any advocacy effort. This is also a subject for another post. I’ll describe some principles and practices that can lead to better results.

Remember, even a small improvement (however defined) in two or three parts of the process could really make a difference! Who wants to study these techniques and apply them to a real project? I do!


~ by chetdavis on January 4, 2008.

7 Responses to “Be a Better Advocate for Your Cause”

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