von Kristina Kroyer
Learning together and from each other: Civil Society, Policy Makers and Media Representatives for successful Policy Dialogue
On April 3rd and 4th, 24 participants from 14 partner organizations, including partners of the Consortium Project Policy Dialogue (CARE Uganda, SOS Children’s Villages Uganda, SOS Children’s Villages Tanzania, and WORUDET), their own partner organizations and networking partners, as well as other organizations of the HORIZONT3000 partner community in Uganda came together to jointly enhance capacities for effective engagement with media and policy makers and to build networks and partnerships for policy dialogue.
The Consortium Project is a joint project by the Austrian NGOs HORIZONT3000, Caritas, Austrian Red Cross, SOS Children’s Village Austria and CARE under the lead of HORIZONT3000 and funded by Austrian Development Agency (ADA). It is implemented together with 9 partner organizations in 4 East African Countries. Although the regional exchange among partners is crucial to the project, country workshops in Kenya and Uganda give the organizations the possibility to focus on their national landscapes and to invite a broad range of guest learners from government, media and civil society. Beate Farukuoye Technical Advisor of HORIZONT3000, supported the workshop in Uganda and provides us with some insights on the workshop:
The group of participants brought together a wide range of experience at different levels, interactive workshop methodologies reinforced exchange and networking. It became evident that effective policy maker engagement requires CSOs to plan their efforts strategically and to act according to a long-term plan. Group work analysed relevant individuals and groups in government, politics as well as in the economic and the private sphere. The participants classified allies, neutrals and opponents for their advocacy projects and discussed adequate stakeholder management strategies. Using the analogy of bringing a knife to a gunfight, the facilitator pointed out the importance of understanding the different stakeholders and their interests to be adequately prepared and equipped for successful policy engagement.
During two interactive sessions with local councilors participants gained practical insights into best practices concerning the cooperation with government officials. The informative interactions with the local councilors were highly appreciated and it was remarked that regular interactions with political leaders are required to foster their accountability and their understanding of the population needs.
Through presentations and engagement from three media representatives, pathways for successful media engagement were explored. While the high cost for CSOs to bring media on board is often complained about, the difference between paid and earned media was emphasized.
When issues and the information provided are highly relevant and newsworthy, they attract attention and justify free publicity. In many cases advocacy campaigns fulfill that criteria and the facilitators highly recommended to invest in media relations and to employ a strategic approach to get the desired coverage.
The workshop itself provided networking opportunities and general strategies how to engage in partnerships and coalitions to support the policy work with a strong base were elaborated. Exchanging on negotiation skills and result-promoting strategies, it was concluded that solutions that create a win-win situation for the parties have a much higher likelihood of stakeholder buy-in than a confrontational approach.
On this notion, the two-day workshop was concluded in an active and cordial mood, with the participants ready to implement the developed action plans in their organisations.