Business Advocacy Agenda and Strategy

The Client

My client was the Botswana Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Manufacturing (BOCCIM), based in Gaborone, Botswana

The Challenge

As the peak, national representative of the business community in Botswana, BOCCIM is involved in a wide range of business advocacy activities. Often, these activities are poorly coordinated and undertaken in response to an immediate crisis or concern, rather than based on a clearly defined agenda or strategy. Furthermore, government has established a lot of consultative mechanisms involving business, which tend to dilute advocacy efforts and sap limited BOCCIM time and resources. The challenge was to identify a precise set of advocacy items for BOCCIM to pursue and to improve the ways the organisation goes about its advocacy.

The Process

In the first instance, I conducted research into the most pressing issues affecting business in Botswana. This involved a broad review of existing literature and documentation. This process led to the drafting of a discussion document outlining a wide range of issues.

I then consulted with the local business community –– BOCCIM members and others –– as well as government and various civil society organisations. These consultations sought to validate the findings of my desktop research and to better understand the kinds or issues that influenced government policymaking and the dialogue between business and government. It was also helpful to understand what kinds of advocacy strategies BOCCIM and others, had used in the past,, and what tended to work in the Botswana context. For example, often, advocacy that is too confrontational or too adversarial is unproductive; it can force government into increasing resistance, rather than opening up the channels for further dialogue and consideration of reform alternatives.

I presented the results of the above work to a BOCCIM members and directors. There was a robust discussion of these issues. This included a hard look at why BOCCIM struggled to successfully influence government policies, law and regulations.

In the next steps, I presented a range of advocacy strategies BOCCIM could employ. These ranged from small, short-term efforts, to long-term campaigns. Processes for linking research and evidence to advocacy efforts was given substantial attention.

The Outcome

The BOCCIM Board formally adopted the Advocacy Agenda and Strategy, which is currently being implemented. The agenda identifies short, medium and long-term advocacy items, and outlines a program of activities the chamber is following to become more successful in its advocacy efforts. This work then led to a membership promotion strategy, which included a focus on how businesses can become more closely involved in advocacy by joining the national chamber.

Lessons Learned

Business advocacy is a two-sided process. Robust advocacy, even when it is based on sound evidence and makes “common sense” is not always successful. It is important to ensure that advocacy efforts are tailored to the target audience. In some case, personal case studies and political persuasion is more effective than hard data.

Advocacy –– in the broadest sense of the word –– is the life of a business-membership organisation. While there may be value in forming an advocacy department or unit, all parts of the organisation should be involved in identifying and responding to issues of concern to members and the business community in general.

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