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Setting the action agenda. Dr. Inas A.Hamid. It is much tougher to struggle with specific language that will ensure everyone is working in the same direction. Before one can map a course of action for change, it is necessary to answer the question, action for what?

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Setting the action agenda

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It is much tougher to struggle with specific language that will ensure everyone is working in the same direction.

  • Before one can map a course of action for change, it is necessary to answer the question, action for what?
  • Without a clear set of objectives, an individual advocate is easily sidetracked.
  • To avoid these problems , one should observe the four cardinal rules of agenda setting:
    • Know your agenda beforehand
    • Decide between incremental and fundamental change goals.
    • Be clear about your priorities.
    • Develop fallback positions.
1 know your agenda
1- Know your agenda
  • Act 1: Betty and Brad corner Senator Artful in a corridor of the Capitol. They tell him they are very upset about the way women keep having babies and their boyfriends take no responsibility because they know single moms can always get welfare.
    • Betty and Brad: “you have to do something about this mess”.
    • Senator Artful: “ What do you want me to do?”

Betty and Brad look at each other. There is a lot of hemming and hawing, while the senator thanks them for coming by and walks away.


Knowing what you want sounds simple, but it is a step that is all too frequently ignored in advocacy.

In the previous scenario; Betty and Brad never go beyond being angry over the welfare problem. They could tell the senator at length about the terrible conditions in America's inner cities.

Media usually tell us what is wrong without saying much about what would improve things.

The advocates have to get beyond that point and define what they would like to see happen.

Suppose someone else comes along with a family therapy program they claim will salvage inner-city families. Will Betty and Brad approve this solution?


By knowing where you want to go , you are less likely to be talked into backing someone else's agenda, one that may have little to do with seriously attacking the problem you started with.

One must be clear about what is being sought and be able to explain this to others .

2 decide between incremental and fundamental change goals
2-Decide between incremental and fundamental change goals
  • Act 2: Brad tells Betty about a new bill in Congress, HR 13, that would provide funds to move mothers on welfare into mandatory job training.
  • Brad said “ we need to write to our congressman and get his support for HR13.
  • Betty said” Job training without creating more jobs in the inner city is useless it would take a massive amount of money and the it would sank the economy.
  • They finally decide the problem is so huge that there is little anybody can do about it.

Brad tells Betty know that their ultimate aim is saving the family in inner-city America, but they are unsure about how to approach the problem.

    • Do they focus on job training programs? (incremental change).
    • Do they work for a massive economic development programs? (fundamental change).

Either approach could be considered “ right” in the sense that it has the potential for reducing the poverty of some families.

    • Who is to say which is better, incremental or fundamental change? There are arguments for each.

One may believe in the need for radical change in the long run yet work for improvements within the existing structure in the interim.

In order to lobby effectively, one should be clear about which of these is being sought now, since some incremental and fundamental changes may work against each other.

Insisting on holding out for total victory, you may lose an opportunity to make tangible gains.

So, it is very important to know how to approach the problem.

3 be clear about your priorities
3- Be clear about your priorities
  • Act 3: A number of groups are now urging people to support HR13 as a step in the right direction.
    • Betty says, they should support it.
    • Brad says, he is not so sure because he has seen one prediction that the program would cost billions in the coming years.
  • They get into an argument and end up not speaking to each other!!!
  • They have created a false dilemma….
  • They neglected many solutions as raising the taxes, reducing expenditures on weapons,…...
4 develop fallback positions
4-Develop fallback positions
  • Act 4: To pick up the votes of several conservative senators, HR13 has been changed from a comprehensive job training program to five demonstration projects running over the next two years.
  • Brad said; the original bill has been gutted, and it would be worse to pass HR13 in its amended form than to take no action.
  • Betty said; if we give up now it will send the wrong signal. They will figure we do not care about the problem.

Without any fallback positions, lobbyists will stew over the issue until it is too late.

It is not possible to anticipate exactly how an original proposal will be altered during deliberation, but it is possible to decide what kinds of changed would still retain enough of the original intent to make it worth fighting for.

Will accepting half a loaf now help move your agenda ahead later, or make it harder to achieve in the end?