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150 students and academics meet advocacy NGOs – LIDC-ONE event series on advocacy and development kicks off at LSHTM

The room was packed full as 150 LIDC members came to learn more about advocacy for development at the first event in a new series initiated by LIDC and the advocacy NGO ONE.

Three advocacy and campaigning NGOs: ONE, Global Poverty Project and Restless Development, presented their views on advocacy, its role and tools, as well as the current campaigns.

ONE highlighted the fact that the British public had little knowledge and often erroneous perceptions of development aid. Alexander Woollcombe, Senior UK Government Relations Manager from ONE, presented success stories and showed data presenting how little development costs compared to other things we spend money on, such as hair loss treatment!

Elisha London, UK Country Director, Global Poverty Project, talked about the Make Poverty History campaign, which led to the biggest ever increase in foreign aid. Successful advocacy campaigns have led to spectacular health improvements, for instance smallpox got completely eradicated and polio is likely to be the next in line. Campaigns that work often relate to people’s own experience and aim to engage them directly. For instance, one of GPP’s recent campaigns encouraged people in the UK to try living on less than £1 a day. Working with partners helps advocacy NGOs maximise their impact.

There is more money allocated to development than ever before, but the crisis is undermining the past achievements and the public lacks awareness and engagement, hence the need for advocacy.

GPP sees advocacy as being of two types: inside advocacy (lobbying at political levels) and winning public support. An important distinction is to be made between donations and between using one’s voice to advocate for a particular cause, the latter often being more important and more powerful than the former.

Eric Levine, CEO of Restless Development, and his colleague Victoria Forsgate, talked about the campaigns run by their youth-led organisation in the UK, Africa and Asia. The speakers talked about their reasons for doing advocacy work, such as ‘because we should’, ‘because we have to’, and ‘because it’s smart for business’. They described a few examples of successful campaigns run by Restless Development, ranging from sexual education in Zambia to community habits and violence in Zimbabwe.

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion.

The next event in the series will be held on 28 November 2011 at the Institute of Education and will explore how research and advocacy can work together for development.

More about the participating NGOs:
ONE
Global Poverty Project
Restless Development