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The Advocacy Accelerator (AAC) is a pan-African organisation and think-tank focusing on strengthening advocacy capacity, alignment, and impact in Africa to enhance coordinated country-based advocacy as a driving force for improvements in development. The AAC aims to disrupt traditional models of development work and build an inclusive advocacy ecosystem that values peer-to-peer learning and local knowledge from the African experience.
Advocacy is complex, nuanced and contextual in nature. As are understandings of advocacy excellence. As an organisation, AAC does not believe there is one “right” way to define advocacy excellence, rather, we were interested in exploring how different parts of the advocacy ecosystem in Africa define this concept and what, if any, implications this may have for African advocates and those that support them. Often, what is considered good advocacy, is defined by donors and organizations in the Global North – we wanted to subvert this thinking.
As part of the role of strengthening the advocacy ecosystem in Africa, AAC initiated research to advance the thinking around Advocacy Excellence from an African perspective, through the development and documentation of a conceptual framework that explores the issue and related concepts, process and terminology. This qualitative research sought to have African changemakers define advocacy excellence from their perspective and centralise African history, ideas and practices around change within the practice of advocacy. The research was exploratory and seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge about advocacy from an African perspective.
Through 25 interviews with advocates, technical assistance providers and donors in the advocacy ecosystem from Anglophone and Francophone countries, we explored the diversity of thought and experience in context, advocacy process, the level at which they work (e.g., community, grassroots, subnational, national, regional, global) and the issue(s) they’re working on. Our starting point was that there is no “right” or one way to define Advocacy Excellence and began with exploring the respondent’s advocacy journeys. We explored areas unique to advocacy in an African context – highlighting country and regional nuances. The research explored multiple aspects of power as a key theme in advocacy excellence, which highlighted the fault-lines between North and South and power dynamics within a local, country, regional and continental context. The key purpose of the research finding was not to give definitive answers but to allow voices from Africa to shape the discourse around advocacy excellence that resonated with their own experiences. Our preliminary findings highlight the impact of donors on advocacy practice in Africa, with African advocates, who better understand the context in which they work, looking at ways to challenge power and disrupt the status quo in order to achieve what they see as advocacy excellence. This paper will discuss the nexus of ideas about advocacy excellence and put forward some recommendations for shifting thinking about advocacy in Africa.