(P6): Advocacy Organization Heuristics

Using spatial heuristics to map hunter-gather search areas in the northern Mediterranean.

There are heuristics for advocacy organizations as well as all other processes in an advocacy/target ecosystem. Remember that a heuristic isn’t a rule. It is a framework for thinking about choice when you are in uncertainty.

The core heuristic for an advocacy organization is an authentic mission. Your authentic mission isn’t the one you use in your marketing or PR. Or even necessarily your official mission. It is the one that motivates the members of your organization to work for change.

This authentic mission is a governing constraint that can be used as a possibility space for exploring change potential. Your real mission is a true strategy, in that it allows you to reduce uncertainty through an exploration of possibilities and it frames your decisions about how to make use of scarce resources.

Enabling and destabilizing relationships are the abstract ways you explore your mission’s possibility space and learn about those possibilities. Mistakes in exploration are less actual mistakes and more ways to build a longer-term model of the possibility space that can help you manage uncertainty and resource scarcity. The model is strategic in comparison with the operational enabling and destabilizing actions that are the actions you use to explore.

Ritual is also a useful heuristic in organizations that seek change, as preparation for change action. Ritual allows us to shift from our day-to-day to the way of thinking and feeling we will need to be successful in pursuing our authentic mission. Rituals are techniques (NOT rules) that can build a mission-oriented organization. There is also a large class of such rituals that can be altered to make them mission-supportive, called Liberating Structures.

Creativity in engaging the context of your organization change work is also a heuristic. Organizations can support or undermine creativity in mission work. To support creativity:

  • Don’t punish mistakes that are consistent with your mission. Mitigate the effects of the mistakes, but don’t undermine the impulse that leads to them.
  • Encourage adventure in change efforts and don’t require that all such efforts conform to a restrictive operational planning model. Finding new ways to advocate in a larger environment prevents advocacy methods from becoming mere habits. As the larger environment becomes used to your advocacy operations, the operations will become less effective at producing change compared to the resources used. Searching for new arenas of change effort in your possibility space necessitates risk and potential failure. The alternative is a change effort gradually impoverished in meaning and impact.
  • Novelty always looks like chaos at first to those for whom it is novel. It isn’t chaos; It’s better conceived as an insurgency. If your organization can use creativity to generate novelty in your advocacy context, your targets will respond, at first, with management tools that are inadequate to resolve the impact of the novelty.

There are many more heuristics you will discover as you explore the possibility space generated by your authentic mission.

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Author: disabilitynorm

hubby2jill, 2dogs, advocate45+yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, pa2Loree, gndpa2Nevin