1. How to convince policy-makers
1.1. Find the right person
- Research the field of policy makers before choosing who to target. What are their roles in the decision making process and at what moment in the process can they make an influence?
- Choose the person that has the power to do something for you.
- If possible choose a person who is already interested in Adult Education.
- If possible choose a person that you have already built a trusting relation to – or else start doing that.
- Consider approaching a civil servant instead of a politician. Sometimes they are easier to access. Often they know the field of Adult Education better. They decide what is put on the desk of the minister.
- If you have problems getting access to ministers, consider approaching parliament members, even backbenchers.
- In some cases local or regional politicians are the ones that can actually solve your problem – or help you access national policy makers
- You may use another NGO – maybe a more influential one – as an ally or a bridge to the policy makers.
1.2. Prepare yourself
- Informal contacts may be a successful first step to a formal meeting or an exchange of documents.
- Choose one thing that you want to accomplish, the one thing that you want support for. If possible a topic that matches the policy-maker’s current political issues.
- Make sure you know a lot about the policy-maker that you are meeting.
- Put yourself in the policy-maker’s shoes and imagine what he or she may gain from supporting your organisation. “What is in it for him or her?” What is his present problem? Does he need press coverage? Is he having an in-fight with another minister for position? Is she looking for the easiest way around (less work, less problems)?
- Produce a brief paper that documents (references to documentations) of your problem/project and what your organisation can do if.....
- Prepare your arguments and your introductory speech in advance.
1.3. Be brief and clear
- Keep it simple!
- Open the meeting with a short presentation: Present yourself, your organisation, and the one action that you want him to take - and include what he can gain from getting you the support that you ask for. Examples, documentation, arguments can wait until you have caught the interest of the policy-maker.
- Do not appear as a beggar, even if your purpose is funding. Make him feel/understand that supporting you means also supporting his interests. One example: our action makes them save money. Another example: our action will solve a problem in society that the public/the media wants the politicians to solve
- Offer your assistance in writing concrete proposals, even law proposals.
1.4. Provide facts and statements
- Provide relevant information such as key facts, key numbers on your organisation or project: how do you spend the money, what are your activities, how many people do your reach, how many participants do you have?
- Present your facts and figures in writing (or multimedia) before the meeting, at the meeting and/or after the meeting.
- You may also present written policy statements. Same rule applies: brief, simple and clear. One page is often a good length. The rest must be links and references.
- Make sure to adapt to the language and topics of the receiver of your message.
1.5. Bring in a learner’s story
- Focus on storytelling, especially when people are telling their own story.
- Present adult learners to policy-makers: their personal stories are the most convincing argument you’ll find!
- Try to have a learning representative appointed to official boards in order to include a learner voice in the policy making.
- Make sure to brief the learner about what his role is before he joins a meeting or a board to empower him and allow him to give a powerful speech.
1.6. Invite policy-makers to your events
- To your public meetings and conferences
- For a tour of your adult education centers
- To an internal event where they can meet your members, teachers or adult learners and hear their stories.
- Invite a policy-maker on to the board of your organisation. (Beware, though, that they are very busy – maybe rather aim for a politician with a lower profile that has the time to be really involved.)
1.7. Be patient, professional and persistent!
- Convincing policy-maker takes time.
- Be patient and persistent until you message has been received, action has been taken and solutions are not just decided but also implemented.
- Be professional and enthusiastic – both aspects are necessary.