Advocacy – MDC Event Summary

Melbourne Development Circle May 2014 Event – Advocacy

Event Summary kindly written by Jane Perry


Outline of evening

The was held on May 6 at the Drill Hall, Therry St. Pictured: Olivia Greenwell during her presentation

Kelly Rae, MDC Convenor and MC for the evening, welcomed everyone and explained that the event would be interactive, with opportunities to share ideas and strategise with others about championing social change.

The activities kicked off with “Elevator Pitch”, where audience members each pitched an idea to someone for 30 seconds to convince the other person that “all people should wear yellow on Mondays”. The arguments used were varied, creative and persuasive.

The audience propose questions for discussion and choose a question to discuss during the break. The panel members, all highly experienced advocates in the development sector, each presented on recent experiences in advocating for change. In the final session, panel members shared their perspectives on the chosen questions

The event was very informative with lively discussion and a truly expert panel that modelled positive inter-agency collaboration.

Key Points from the Session

  • The job of advocacy is essentially about taking a lot of information and forming it into short, sharp statements.
  • It’s important to remember that advocacy is episodic, often two steps forward and one step back. Don’t be discouraged. Just keep your eye on the goal.
  • The importance of having a clear plan with short, medium and long term goals
  • It’s important to seize every opportunity
  • Link to other causes or issues where this makes good use of resources
  • Don’t be afraid to piggy back on International Days of “….” and other high profile events
  • Relationships are critical and need to be nurtured
  • Many voices are stronger than one
  • Politicians engage with case studies and individual stories
  • Be really clear you know what you want and be able to sum it up in a couple of dot points
  • Be prepared to ask for it. Politicians will expect this, so don’t waste an opportunity


Presentation highlights 

Grant Hill, National Campaigns Coordinator, Oxfam Australia

Grant Hill during Q&A

Grant Hill during Q&A

Grant discussed the Make Poverty History campaign and the challenges and opportunities after almost 10 years. Its main objective has been motivating the Australian government to contribute its fair share to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Until the end of the previous government, significant wins included doubling of the aid budget, a development program which was much more pro poor and improvements in the quality of aid. Water and disability were new areas of focus in the Australian aid program.

Key points

  • The aim is to continue to try and raise the aid budget to .5% and improve the quality of aid
  • The real challenge is to develop a deeper understanding of how decisions are made, build bipartisan networks, and build a campaign that is robust
  • Bill and Melinda Gates have given 1 million dollars through World Vision to take the message forward


Olivia Greenwell, Campaign Manager, WaterAid Australia

Olivia explaining the importance of WASH advocacy in poverty eradication

Olivia focussed on her experience in advocacy around the water and sanitation shortfall among the world’s population. The WASH sector has set the ambitious but achievable goal of reaching everyone in the world with water and hygiene by 2030.

Key points

  • Water sits under goal 7 of the MDG’s, but didn’t initially include sanitation. Two years ago, half of the water goal was achieved, but sanitation is running far behind
  • The MDGs are about to expire in 2015, so there is a lot of discussion in the development sector about “what next?
  • The Post-2015 Development Agenda, co-chaired byDavid Cameron (UK) and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Indonesia), prepared a report on what should succeed the MDG framework to in order to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Twelve goals were devised and no. Goal 6 focuses exclusively on water, sanitation and hygiene. This is a major advocacy success because WASH now has a goal of its own!


Rachel Colbourne-Hoffman, National Advocacy Coordinator, TEAR Australia

Rachel Colbourne-Hoffman discussing TEAR's Shine The Light campaign

Rachel Colbourne-Hoffman discussing TEAR’s Shine The Light campaign

Rachel began with a description of TEAR Australia’ key advocacy efforts which centre on climate change. They aim to generate and bring to public attention stories of people affected by climate change and the need for more and better aid. They are asking the key question: What supports a world where sustainable human development is possible?

Key points


Sophie Plumridge, Executive Chair, Australian Disability and Development Consortium 


Sophie explaining how to leverage off International Day’s, and other thematic events, to bring focus to your campaign

Sophie described the advocacy carried out by the ADDC; an Australian based network and peak body seeking a world free of poverty for people with a disability. Their lobbying and awareness raising is devoted to inclusion of disability in development programs.

Key points

  • Australia has really taken the lead in disability and development which is a major achievement
  • One vital aspect of ADDC’s approach is that they run consultation sessions with members to gauge their views about what should be lobbied for
  • Sophie urged for collaboration, partnerships and mutual strengthening of organisations and stressed the importance of strategically linking a message to other issues and opportunities
  • ADDC achieved a DFAT Disability Strategy and this was linked to the International Day of People with a Disability
  • In one of her first engagements as Foreign Minister at a high level meeting in New York, Julie Bishop spoke about someone she had met with two years earlier as a result of ADDC, so don’t become discouraged if things don’t happen quickly

We D.I.D It – Case Study:  In the lead up to a federal election, the goal was the nomination of a senior AusAID person to be nominated as Disability Ambassador. They conducted a national day of action and the outcome was a huge achievement – labelled “We D.I.D. it”. See the YouTube clip of  Kevin Rudd making the announcement.


Audience prepared questions & panel’s response

Kelly Rae (MDC) thanking speakers

Kelly Rae (MDC) thanking speakers with organic chocolate and People & Planet gift cards

  1. How do we bring an issue that’s not topical onto the radar, even if the organisation is small?
  • Smaller organisations can be more nimble and responsive and make decisions quickly and seize opportunities if you’re well connected
  • The right division of labour in small organisations makes best use of policy development and communications skills, vital to a successful campaign
  1. How to manage the issue of balancing one organisation’s centralised voice and having many organisations discussing the same issue.
  • A well-resourced professional advocacy body is a huge advantage. The value of having an umbrella organisation like ACFID is that it allows it’s members to coordinate and set the advocacy agenda
  • Working in coalitions to ensure this consistent voice takes time and energy, but when you get to the point where you do agree, it’s very powerful
  • Water Aid argues that WASH is cross cutting because it affects women and girls, poverty, etc and therefore the opportunities for working with other agencies is clear. In a way it’s about avoiding duplication, coordinating and minimising confusion
  • Having strong, multiple voices is important, but this needs to be accompanied by clear division of labour.
  1. The issue of finding and working with champions, particularly high level ones.
  • The MPH campaign used the words “Unusual Voices” to identify prominent people with potential for impact because of their status. For example, Bob Mc Mullan was a real champion of aid and made big changes
  • One of the issues in using external champions such as celebrities is that it’s vital that they reflect your values and will act appropriately, not damaging your brand. Relationships will take time to develop, so it’s important to build them gradually



A great night at Melbourne Development Circle, thanks to our amazing group of speakers, and the wonderful volunteers at MDC who make these events happen.

Thank-you to Kelly-Anthony Photography for photos on the night – the full album Advocacy  is on Facebook.