The Advocacy Canvas - An analysis and planning overview for advocacy campaigns

Log-frame, theory of change, impact chain, business plan, or business model canvas: for projects or businesses a series of standard tools have been developed to analyse the business or project environment and to plan and re-assess initiatives. Those standard tools are widely accepted and used.

Advocacy Canvas by Civil Society Academy

For advocacy campaigns, there is no such standard tool. Sometimes log-frames are used to plan campaigns, sometimes action plans are developed, but most often, there is no comprehensive and documented plan at all. Nevertheless, campaigns can be very successful and straight forward even though no comprehensive plan is available, especially when the problem is very focused (e.g. no GMO) and strong campaigners drive the advocacy campaign, and provide analysis, vision and leadership. Advocacy campaigns with a more complex target (e.g. meaningful participation of tribals at regional planning processes) request a more structured approach to be fruitful.

If campaigns are more collective efforts and with distributed leadership, it is useful to use methodologies to analyse and plan in a participatory and transparent manner. The advocacy canvas is such a methodology. It is based on the business model canvas, which has been described by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) as a shared language for describing, visualizing, assessing and changing business models – or in our case advocacy campaigns. In our adaptation of the canvas, we replaced the business logic with an advocacy logic.

Advantages of the Advocacy Canvas

The main advantages of using the advocacy canvas are the following:

  1. It is comprehensive: The canvas includes an analysis (blue part), an advocacy plan (red part) and a resource plan (green part)

  2. It is visual and participatory: It is a simple overview. You can easily analyse and plan together with a team, and come to a common understanding of the different aspects of the advocacy campaign. Every member of the campaign team can contribute and derive its role.

  3. It is capacity development: The work on the canvas develops knowledge and skills related to advocacy and strengthens the involvement and ownership of the team in relation to the campaign.

  4. It is an iterative process: Though you start at one component or field of the canvas, the team will repeatedly return to each component and analyse if that component is still coherent with the rest of the canvas. Mostly post-its or pin-boards are used for developing a canvas, so amendments are always possible.

  5. Progress can be easily assessed: The canvas enables the team to easily assess progress or changing frameworks conditions as well. Accordingly, the canvas should be regularly updated.

The advocacy canvas is applicable for campaigns that look at a time frame that is not too long (probably up to 5 years) and with an objective that is not too broad. If an organisation has a broad mandate for advocacy, it is better to plan multiple campaigns. Ideally, those campaigns would be embedded in an organisational strategy, or best in an advocacy strategy, which would serve as a framework for the different campaigns.

How to use the Advocacy Canvas

At first, you will have to discuss with key partners how inclusive you would like the planning exercise to be. Generally, it is good to be more inclusive, but the larger the group the better prepared you need to be. You will also need an experienced facilitator for a large group. If the group is new to the canvas and to advocacy campaigns, it will take at least three days to maneuver through the different parts of the canvas and develop a coherent campaign.

Here are the main steps you would look at during the workshop:

1. Blue - Analysis:

To build common ground, you start the work by analysing the problem, identifying the most affected people, and assessing the policies/realities that are causing the problem.

You probably already have a solution to the problem in mind. However, you should spend time to clearly define the expected solution, especially in terms of policies: Are new policies needed? Can existing policies be amended? Or is the solution rather to implement the existing policies in a better way?

Finally, you would look at the key influencers and list down the main groups or individuals that you should definitely target with your campaign. For each key influencer, you should define your expectations. What do you expect the key influencers to do to contribute to the solution?

To deepen your analysis, it is recommended to use common appraisal tools at this stage, such as problem trees, profiling of the most affected groups or stakeholder mapping. An in-depth policy analysis may also be considered.

2. Red – Advocacy Plan:

The red part is the actual plan. It is most similar to the components of a log-frame and features objective, indicators, and key activities. But this part of the canvas also summarizes some of the main strategic decision that is necessary to define a campaign, such as:

  • Is the campaign collaborative or confrontational towards the state?

  • Is your focus on evidence-based advocacy or on people-centered advocacy?

  • What exactly is your role? A facilitator of people’s actions or a campaigner?

  • What type of communication methods are most appropriate to reach your advocacy goal i.e. advocacy, lobbying, advising, activism or a mix of methods

Such questions are critical to defining your course of action and which advocacy tools you are going to use. Further, the red part also looks at the actual advocacy demands. Here, a few key demands should be developed that can be easily communicated. All campaigners should be familiar with the key demands and use them repeatedly. You may also look at the key influencers (in the blue part) at this stage and see what key demands you have towards each of those important stakeholders?

3. Green – Resource Plan:

In a third step, you should look at the resources you have at hand, and also the resources of your key partners and allies. It is important to discuss the timescale (as realistic as possible), the kind of partnership you envisage, for instance joint management, planning or assessment, or even a common campaign secretariat.

After such a first assessment of resources and a basic understanding of partnerships, you can move on, to plan additional resource requirements and identify potential donors.

After the group completed a first draft of the canvas, you should go back to all components once again: Make additions where needed, take out irrelevant points, give it more focus, or more coherence.

Now you have an analysis and a plan!

From here you will probably move forward, towards building structures such as partnerships and teams to implement the plan. But don’t wear blinders. Re-assessing plans, and challenging your analysis is particularly important if you are working in advocacy initiatives. Make your canvas visible in the office and give it a thought - from time to time.

Impressions: Advocacy Planning supported by the Civil Society Academy in Ranchi, India


Osterwalder, A & Y. Pigneur (2010): Business Model Generation.

About the Author:

Joachim Schwarz started his career with the UN before shifting to Civil Society. In Welthungerhilfe, he worked in leadership positions in Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, and as Regional Director for South Asia. Joachim is passionate about Civil Society and has been a main engine of the Civil Society Academy since its inception in 2014.


Do you like to give feedback, or you are interested in our courses or our support?

Please contact: Joachim Schwarz

#ToolboxGoodGovernance #Advocacy #Rightsbasedapproach #AdvocacyCanvas

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