When you talk to people who think the same as you, you have a spontaneous conversation. But when you are delivering your message to those in positions of power, who have a strategic conversation.
During the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program we learned that strategic conversation is a learned skill that can be gained if certain criteria and tips are taken into consideration. Regardless of experience, topic or audience, anyone can be effective in forwarding their proposal if these tips are used.
One of my key learnings came while we were talking about advocacy with Elaine Larsen, a member of The Capital Comms Group. Elaine mentioned the importance of making sure to “speak their language”. This phrase gained meaning as our conversation continued and taught me elements that I consider crucial to speaking an “international advocacy language”:
• Get their dictionary. When it comes to international advocacy we must know the concepts, phrases, words and references used by the person with whom we are talking. When researching their background, it is important to review the vocabulary used by the institutions they represent. Essentially this will help you to name the same concept in the same way.
• Refer to their policy, programs and political statements. Knowing how they work and making reference to it moves the conversation in to their arena, increasing the chances of achieving a real commitment.
• Appeal to the objectives of the institution they represent, and how they will benefit when added to your proposal.
• Make an easy and doable request. It is important to make your initial ask easy and doable in order to increase the chance of your ask being approved.
Personally it is important for me to use my feminist, political and theoretical discourse. However I learned that when it comes to international advocacy it is more important for me to translate my speech in to language policy makers understand. Ultimately, it is not about converting them to feminism – it is convincing them to make pro-women decisions.
Neesa joined us in Ottawa for the 2015 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She completed six weeks of communications and advocacy training alongside two young women activists from Burma and South Sudan. Neesa is now continuing her work to promote women’s rights in Honduras.