Buttressing the Evolving Landscape for Family Planning Advocacy

Elizabeth Leahy Madsen

PRB | Program Director, International Programs
PACE Subnational Toolkit

A collage of the reports included in PACE's Subnational Toolkit.

Many governments are changing the way they fund family planning, moving more funding to the subnational level. These changes create new opportunities to gain support for family planning, if advocates tailor their efforts accordingly. At PRB, we have found that advocacy is most effective if messages are specific to local needs, using local data.

“An issue affecting one region in a country may be non-existent or minimally felt in another. Hence it becomes important to target,” says Colette Ajwang’, a reproductive health policy, advocacy, and communication consultant with PRB who is based in Kenya. “For example, while one decision maker in one county in Kenya may want to address child marriage and teenage pregnancy, in another county, decision makers may be faced with school drop-out among boys or drug and substance abuse among young people.”

PRB’s Policy, Advocacy, and Communication Enhanced for Population and Reproductive Health (PACE) project created a new resource to help advocates design new messages and materials for subnational audiences. The subnational advocacy resources in this catalog include case studies, guides, policy briefs, and analyses from many countries, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Advocates developed the resources to use at commune, district, state, and regional levels.

These resources provide examples of how others have approached subnational family planning advocacy, and may be helpful to advocates working in that area. To add a resource to the catalog, please email us at thepaceproject@prb.org.

It is also important for advocates to respond to new advocacy opportunities. PACE recently published a training curriculum to improve how advocates and researchers communicate with policymakers. Our Policy Communication Toolkit has been applied for more than 30 years in countries around the world. Now that it is available online, users can select and customize training sessions to meet their specific needs.

PACE Policy Communication Toolkit

PACE's Policy Communication Toolkit includes eight modules featuring presentations, exercises, reading materials, and bonus activities.

The toolkit includes eight learning modules. Each module is filled with presentations, individual and group exercises, background reading, and supplemental activities such as site visits and expert speaker sessions to enrich understanding.

PRB has updated the toolkit to help advocates respond to changes in how decision makers receive and interpret information. We developed two new modules, on Data Visualization and Social Media, that teach advocates to design and share their messages in ways that capture attention. The Data Visualization module prepares advocates to tell a story visually using data. Data visualizations can be effective because they use evidence to communicate key points, but are shorter and more memorable than a policy brief. Because information is increasingly distributed and discussed through Facebook and Twitter, we also developed a Social Media module. It positions advocates to develop attention-getting content for these platforms while remaining accurate.

A third new module in the toolkit features Negotiations and Accountability. It addresses the challenges of how to reach your desired advocacy goal when many other priorities are competing for space on the agenda. With a focus on the budget process, advocates learn the most likely entry points for their activities. This module also teaches how to identify and document the factors that contributed to the success or failure of advocacy.

Successful advocates have always known that their strategies must evolve in a changing environment. As more decisions are made at the local level and communicated in new ways, we hope that these new resources will support advocates to promote family planning goals. As Ajwang’ says, “Use of relevant data drives messages home and can shock the decision makers into action.”