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How does the perfect advocate look like?


In tomorrow’s world, irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemic, the multiplication of actors, causes, and advocacy platforms means that competition for « air » and  « ear » space will be even more intense.  This situation will leave policy-makers and their advisers with little choice but to make decisions based on clear narratives, undisputed credibility and, importantly, « asks » that are delivered by great advocates.

Having observed scores of advocates over the years, let me highlight what I believe are the three major attributes of great advocates :

– The first one is Knowledge

– The second one is Skills

– The third one is Attitude

  • Knowledge includes, among many things, the understanding of the policy environment in which one operates, the political landscape and the organisational imperatives from various stakeholders.
  • Skills range from analytical capabilities, strategic thinking, to excellence in delivering a clear message and ask – whatever the format and the audience.

Both Knowledge and Skills can be acquired through training, observation, studies, discussions with experts and other means. In short, pretty much anyone can possess the knowledge and skills to be a good advocate by doing homework.

So what makes the difference between an average advocate and a top advocate ? It is the Attitude. As a consequence, if your organisation is hiring an advocacy expert, dig beyond Knowledge and Skills to understand the person’s Attitudeand ask yourself the following questions :

– Will this person be trustworthy, both internally and externally ?

– Will this person demonstrate resilience in managing complex and long-term issues ?

– Is this person a good listener who will gather intelligence and build consensus ?

– Is this person proactive enough to be ahead of the policy-making developments ?

– Can this person connect dots and people to ensure windows of opportunities are not wasted ?

If your answers to these questions on Attitude are positive, chances are this person will be a great addition to your advocacy team !

To conclude: attitude is not a matter of age or experience, it is a question of mindset. To learn more about advocacy, register to the Graduate Institute’s Advocacy in International Affairs Executive Certificate.