Panelists Share Strategies for Effective Advocacy and Citizen Engagement at Mindset 2.0 Series
Stakeholders, thought leaders and advocates in various sectors gathered on Tuesday (February 16) to share insights and practical strategies for effective advocacy and citizen engagement during the Mindset 2.0 series.
The evening interactive forum held at the Rockview Hotel opposite Imo State Government House and had an interesting line up of panelists who shared personal experiences and expert views on the best ways for engaging the government in order to achieve results.
Sharing the vision of the forum which has held in some other select Nigerian cities, the moderator, Charles Ubani said the Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement Project is a five-year project implemented by Chemonics International and supported by the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). The objective of the project is to strengthen civil society’s ability to influence the development and implementation of key democratic reforms at the national, state, and local levels. It supports increased engagement and efficacy of civil society to be able to influence public institutions, whose function is to serve citizens’ interests.
To achieve this, the project launched The 2.0 Mindset Series aimed at sharing the skills and experiences of successful practitioners and change agents to strengthen the capacity of partners, collaborators, and wider public on ‘what works’ and I dare to say that this objective was surpassed during the Owerri edition as panelists shared very actionable strategies based on real experiences. The strategies and experiences they shared can be replicated anywhere if properly applied.
The panelists included Dame Chibuzor Oriuwa, Executive Director (ED) and founder of Forward Africa, Emeka Ononamadu, ED of Citizens Center for Integrated Development and Social Rights, Wisdom Durueke, a lawyer and civil society activist and Hon. Ken Agbim, House of Assembly representative for Ahiazu Mbaise Constituency.
Taking a collaborative stance during Advocacy
Sharing her experiences and successes during the interactive session, the first panelist, Dame Chibuzor Oriuwa said Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) need to be propositional when approaching government to address a particular need or situation. She said that they need to come with solutions and not just criticizing from the side. Adopting this approach helped her organization build trust and confidence with the government and eventually attained their advocacy goals. She also added that perseverance is also vital in order to achieve meaningful results when working with government.
Data is Everything
One of the points stressed by all the panelists for effective advocacy and citizen engagement is evidence. They advised civil society organizations to present facts when pushing for change in a particular area. This was reiterated by Barr Durueke during his presentation. He also highlighted the reasons why advocacy is very important for the society and shared experiences from his work as an activist.
“We advocate when there are issues that need attention.” He said. According to him, “Advocacy efforts must be knowledge driven. It’s very important to research and isolate the challenge before making any moves.”
He also added that the courtroom is an indispensable tool in advocacy that people often neglect. Also, leveraging on the power of the media, networks and the public is very effective during advocacy activities.
The popular belief is that all advocacy efforts are targeted towards the government but Mr Emeka Ononamadu, the third speaker believes CSOs can also target the people who are to benefit from the advocacy efforts. He said CSOs can empower them with information and facts to take action on issues that affect and matter to them. He advised activists to also look out for people who have influence on their target audience or group and leverage on their influence to achieve their advocacy goals.
Hon. Ken Agbim while making his input and answering questions from the audience, added that the importance of effective communication cannot be over emphasized. He advised advocates to clearly define their advocacy goals and help their target group understand what they stand to gain by supporting them. He also reemphasized on the importance of coming with well researched facts and data because those they are meeting are also knowledgeable and smart.
Check out some pictures from the well attended event