While many colleagues were in New York lobbying for new commitments, as program staff we were quite busy with finalizing the inception phase of one of those commitments made in Paris last year on addressing Climate Change to include vulnerable communities in negotiation processes and consider ecosystems while designing solutions.
What we developed in the process is a local Dialogue Capacity Framework that contextualizes advocacy or policy influencing. An enlightment based paradigm of what advocacy and policy influencing is all about is quite dominant in the discourse surrounding advocacy programming. Whether an NGO is considered a good watchdog is hard to judge for outsiders. Do you know what it needs to bark on? Asking a dog itself what capacities it requires for 'barking' may sound a bit odd. The question probably is not how to bark but when to bark. This may particularly hold for NGOs that bark all the time, but are not listened to or in the worst case are even put in a kennel. They may no longer be allowed to move freely over the property and snif around in places to trace intruders.
So how to strengthen watchdog capacities? What makes a good watchdog? Does its size matter? Or its previous experience with intruders? Or does its relationship to the landlord matter for the energy it puts into protection. If the landlord is not nice to the watchdog, will the dog stay at the compound, or will it run the moment the gate is found open? Writing nice policy briefs (bringing the newspaper from the doorstep to the living room) will be appreciated but is this always required? The strange thing with dogs is, even if the owner does not treat her well it usually stays loyal.
It is going to be important to know what behavior a dog shows in the face of change of environment. Exposure to other dogs often triggers more barking then necessary or desired. Maybe it is time for some hunting dogs who cooperate better and are out in the field to drive their prey in the desired direction. In fact, it is interesting to learn about the different roles a dog can have and the website dogscience.org carries a number of important lessons that equally may apply to NGOs that consider themselves watchdogs but are in fact barking dogs. Voilá, your recipe for effective advocacy training! The most important question to ask would probably be: Whose 'dog' are you training?
"The role of the watchdog is not to attack intruders. Nor is it to forestall an attack by the same. Nor, is the role of the watchdog to bark at everything he sees. Rather, the proper role of a well trained watchdog is to sound the alarm by barking when he sees someone do one of those specific things that he has been trained to watch for. Your task as someone who is about to train a watchdog is - first - to make a list of those things that you want your watchdog-to-be to bark at and - second - to arrange the training contingencies to ensure that your dog always barks at those things. However, just as importantly, you must ensure that your dog will bark only at those things"
My name is Reinier van Hoffen, founder of URAIDE.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.