A team of researchers from three countries is examining how elected politicians and their senior administrators make decisions about funding and policy. We started looking at the effectiveness of advocacy for libraries and soon realized that our examination was backwards—we should look at why and how decisions are made and then match advocacy efforts to that context. The results of our efforts to date were presented at the recent conferences of the British Columbia and Ontario Library Associations. The Advocacy and Influence presentation has had text added to make it more comprehensible to someone not in the audience.
Definition of Advocacy
We begin by using my definition of advocacy as a planned, deliberate and sustained effort to develop understanding and support incrementally over time. We clarify advocacy from publicity (all about us), public relations (all about us), marketing (more about the client, and indeed advocacy could be construed as marketing an issue) and lobbying (typically about a specifc issue in a legislative context).
More importantly, advocacy efforts (as defined above) need to take place “at the table” where advocates are players in identifying and addressing community issues and problems.
The rules of advocacy include recognizing that the target warrants respect, that the target makes decisions for his or her own reasons, not ours, and that the most effective advocacy is about connecting agendas (your agenda will be advanced by supporting our request). Advocacy is like banking—you can’t make withdrawals if you have never made any deposits.
Cialdini’s Universal Principles
We have more recently been affected by Cialdini’s universal principles, or theory, of influence. Cialdini suggests that six factors need to be considered in any effort at persuasion
- Reciprocation (others feel obliged to return favors);
- Authority (look to experts to speak for you);
- Commitment/Consistency (with prior commitments and personal/political values);
- Scarcity (the less available something is the more we want it, but there is a problem if it is perceived to be free);
- Liking (the more we like someone, or even just know them, the more we want to say yes);
- Social Proof (what others/colleagues are doing as validation).
Our presentation includes what generally works for library funding, in addition to these principles, as well as what has not traditionally worked, according to the research.
The basic questions is why we keep on doing the same things when the research and evidence suggests a very different approach.
In essence, the relationship is the message.