CivicMedia.info gathers ideas, examples, and resources for practitioners — with a focus on activists and civil society organizations.
The site is maintained by Christine Prefontaine (Facilitating Change) and Eric Barrett (JumpStart Georgia). It was created with support from the University of Washington’s Technology & Social Change Group and East-West Management Institute as part of the Policy, Advocacy, and Civil Society Development in Georgia (G-PAC) project — a four-year initiative effort (October 2010 – September 2014) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Defining civic media
We look to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Civic Media to define civic media:
… Civic media is any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents.
… By helping to provide people with the necessary skills to process, evaluate, and act upon the knowledge in circulation, civic media ensures the diversity of inputs and mutual respect necessary for democratic deliberation.
Civic media goes beyond news gathering, reporting, and citizen journalism. It includes a range of practices, media, and technologies that foster dialogue, advocacy, and political action.
Advocacy is a political process by an individual or group that aims to influence policies, procedures, and norms within political, economic, and social institutions or systems. Advocacy can address a broad range of public issues — healthcare, education, economic development, environmental protection, government spending, democratic processes, government transparency, corporate responsibility, and human rights. While advocacy often targets government and public policy, it can also include the private sector, civil society, international financial instutions, and aid agencies.
Advocacy involves four broad steps:
- Identify the issue and the key players — An organization conducting an advocacy campaign must identify the problem, the people and government bodies responsible for it, those who benefit from it, others already working on the issue, and why existing policies are inadequate. Effective advocacy organizations cultivate strong working relationships with people who are passionate about the cause within the government, the private sector, and civil society. They also identify those players whose position or behaviors will be most difficult to change.
- Develop practical solutions — Effective advocacy organizations do not just call attention to a problem — they propose realistic and specific recommendations for policies that will resolve the issue. Successful organizations determine how stakeholders can help them achieve their goals and approach each of them with clear requests. Organizations must negotiate with various stakeholders to reach practical solutions.
- Design and conduct an advocacy campaign — To be effective and make the best use of limited time and resources, advocacy efforts should be strategic, targeted, and use appropriate tactics (activities). Common tactics include media and information campaigns, presentations, research, polls, petition drives, public demonstrations, roundtable discussions, and formal and informal meetings with community and government representatives. Timing is key to effectiveness: Current policy debates and important public events like elections and holidays should be taken into account so that activities occur at politically opportune moments and receive maximum attention.
- Achieve results — The ultimate goal is to achieve concrete changes to policies and procedures that will effectively address the issue.