Strengthening capacity for advocacy in food systems of the poor
Effective and progressive civil society movements are critical for tackling poverty and protecting the environment in low-income countries.
Strengthening the capacity of citizens and advocacy organisations can therefore be a meaningful contribution to local, national and international efforts to shape development sector policy. But agency is rarely talked about in relation to capacity strengthening.
The definition of capacity strengthening used in advocacy programmes tends to focus on strengthening skills and knowledge, whereas agency is about fostering independent action and free choices.
In this paper we highlight lessons and insights from Sustainable Diets for All (SD4All), an advocacy programme that focuses on capacity strengthening and agency in its aim to foster change within local and national food systems. Spanning Bolivia, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, our experiences from SD4All highlight the dilemmas and tensions that Northern funders and Southern CSOs face when seeking common cause in advocacy agendas – particularly when the changes sought should be grounded in citizen agency.
The paper places capacity strengthening within the context of a development sector where most advocacy is funded and managed by Northern stakeholders. These actors often have their own advocacy agendas to prioritise. And while stakeholders funding advocacy try to align with the needs and interests of Southern civil society organisations and citizens, our experience is that much gets lost in the detail.
Based on lessons from SD4All and our reflections on advocacy capacity strengthening and agency, this report makes four key recommendations for donors, international NGOs, civil society organisations and citizen groups: 1) Invest in agency within capacity strengthening programmes 2) Recognise and value different types of knowledge 3) Recognise the importance of equality in relationships, and 4) Prioritise capacity strengthening as a joint endeavour