I would like to ask Ruth about the issue of funding, something the report touches on briefly. Where Oxfam receives funding from an organisation but aims to do advocacy with them (either jointly or advocacy towards the company) is it easy to hold the dual roles? It is only possible, IMHO, it can only work if the company (as a donor) makes very clear that it is separating decision-making about funding from strategising together. Save the Children (Sweden) had an advocacy partnership with IKEA with no funding in the first few years.
How can joint advocacy between civil society and business help to drive the policies needed to achieve the SDGs?
Joint advocacy bring more voices to the table. The biggest challenge is about ensuring words match actions.
How does joint advocacy make a difference, what are some of the challenges and how have you managed to overcome them?
When it comes to peace, business is seen as not one of the ‘usual suspects’. This gives them and edge by coming at the issue with a different lens and one that appeals to different audiences. In terms of convincing other business there is no stronger advocate than other businesses.
Need to think through approach. Is it about internal advocacy within a single business institution e.g. Alert working with Anglo team to influence their overall organisational approach. Or is it joint external engagement to others. How will you sequence to build trust and credibility?
When working together you need to define 1. Common goals 2. Common messages 3. Targets 4. Identify ‘moments in time’ / entry opportunities for influencing 4. Jointly dedicate time and resources (influencing doesn’t come free) 5. Where necessary, support each other to build support/constituency within own organisations
I think, another element why joint advocacy is useful, is the fact that the process of agreeing on the problem, solutions, asks, actions involves scrutinisation from many more angles. Business would struggle to see perspective of NGOs and vice versa.
The content itself of advocacy becomes stronger because it has been viewed from many more dimensions.
I think one of the really interesting by-products of your advocacy work with GSK has been your ability to influence each other’s policies and practices and to build the trust necessary to engage around more challenging policy issues.
A challenge in joint advocacy is there will be issues when we do not always completely agree with our advocacy partners. For example, GSK and Save the Children do not hold the same view on the role of private health insurance in Universal Health Coverage. However as I mentioned, joint advocacy has played a valuable role in strengthening alignment between our organisations. Working together to advocate on significant policy issues around child health has enabled us to deepen our understanding of each other’s positions and policy ambitions, and find areas of focus for the greatest impact. Only by taking the time to close gaps in understanding through open and honest dialogue and acknowledging and accepting our differences, can we find the sweet-spots of shared interest where we can work to drive positive change.
Ruth said it very well - it requires trust and a mature, open relationship that is built over time.
It is a tension that Oxfam has chosen to hold, because we recognise the tension we only partner with those companies that show a positive direction of travel. Companies while not perhaps perfect must demonstrate changing practices to align with Oxfam values.
I agree with Sandra - investing the time and asking the tough questions needed to build an effective advocacy partnership can not only improve the quality of the policy recommendations, but also challenge the participating organizations to think about and change some of their own internal policies and practices and/or other individual policy positions they might have.
the key is transparency - WWF have taken funds from Coca Cola to work on freshwater issues in the UK and then udnertake joint advocacy - I think there is a fine line to draw between the common interest adn that the business is benefitting - full disclosure of activity can help manage some of the perceptions of this.
Yes the investor work was crucial because as powerful as civil society and consumers voices are investors carry both big stick and carrot to incentive behaviour getting them involved in our advocacy was a game changer
Selena Victor, Mercy Corps, joining. Interesting discussion so far. On the question of why joint advocacy is useful - I think we need a broad definition of what ‘joint advocacy’ means. It’s not just civil society and business speaking out together, but covers a whole host of relationships that can bring together our various strengths. For example joint efforts to fund and promote new research into the impacts of certain actions, promotion of new practices etc - as well as both public and behind the scenes efforts to shape policy. From our perspective, business partners have been able to offer a wealth of resources and expertise to enable us to carry out that range of ‘influencing’ activities.
One of the challenge in policy advocacy is balancing business profit maximizing agenda with social good, has any of the panelist encountered such and how do we ensure we strike a balance
This is, of course, a much wider question about advocacy and not limited to private sector partnerships. We receive funding from (and have partnerships with) government donors yet advocate to change them. We need governments of countries to partner with us on our health or education work but we also know we want them to change. We must remember that it is our independent and challenging voices which mean we are worth partnering with.
Doesn’t that tension exist to some extent in any joint efforts between business and civil society - including use of CSR budget for programmes? In some ways I think it might be easier to defend joint advocacy efforts as they have a better chance of helping shape internal policies and practices (because it’s that much harder for business to advocate for something without ‘living it’ to some extent)?
this can of course be a grey area - where a business profits from delivering social benefits would we not want that benefit to be advanced further?- the key must be in being transparent about who is saying what in whose name
One of the things I have noticed from all the examples I have analysed is that by working together on policy issues all sides can build a much better understanding of the issues and each other perspectives. Through this enhanced understanding, organisations are better able to identify better policy solutions that have a realistic chance of support and adoption. Through the process of collaboration they build the political capital that transformational policy change requires.
In addition to the challenge that Ruth, Rachael and others have raised about balancing cooperation with continuing to keep each other accountable , another key challenge I see is for participating companies and NGOs to ensure there is alignment between their various public policy positions - and that they are not advocating for one issue or policy through their joint collaborative effort and then undermining that through other advocacy positions.
I agree - joint advocacy does help to strengthen alignment between organisations and partners. It is a valuable way to increase our understanding of one another’s positions to help us find common ground and shape practices. For example, with input and advice from Save the Children, in 2014, GSK established our own policy position in support of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), clarifying our role as a private sector organisation and ensuring our own policies and practices are consistent with the goals of UHC.
Selena - could you provide an example?
Back to challenges - a couple we feel repeatedly. First as a relatively lean NGO policy team we struggle to provide the kind of support and time investment that a joint effort requires. Second, we don’t necessarily understand the way a given business will function on a practical level - so who should we engage with to build an advocacy relationship? Often we will have contacts with CSR or equivalent, but our key partners might well be the public affairs team, marketing dept or others. It’s challenging to navigate!