From smartphones to social media, digital tools and channels have become the primary avenue for communication and interaction in today's world. Eighty-four percent of Europeans report having a smartphone, and most Europeans report spending more than six hours per day online and using social media as a source of information. In this rapidly evolving world, digital advocacy has become essential for creating meaningful change and driving transformation. This blog explores the empowering potential of digital advocacy, drawing upon Helvetas’ experiences and addressing the dilemmas, risks and future opportunities it presents.
Digitalization is constantly expanding communication pathways. By leveraging mass channels, we can reach a wider audience and amplify our collective voice. To succeed, we need to set clear objectives, have a deep understanding of our target audience, and deliver tailored messages that resonate with this audience. Engaging citizens through compelling content is crucial, while also recognizing the importance of offline engagement and inclusivity for those without digital access. By embracing these principles and continuously evaluating our impact, we can inspire positive change and shape a brighter future.
The Why’s and How’s of Digital Advocacy
By harnessing the power of digital tools and channels, advocacy campaigns can reach larger audiences, promote engagement, and influence public opinion. But taking action through mass channels shouldn’t lead to more noise. Tailored messages that resonate with each target group allows campaigns to go beyond superficial engagement and foster genuine involvement. In an era of "clicktivism," genuine involvement holds greater value than mere button-clicking. By creating an environment for authentic self-expression, we can ensure sustainable and meaningful digital advocacy.
Three Principles for Moving Beyond Clicktivism
Digital advocacy is a powerful tool to empower people and drive behavior change. To ensure your digital efforts are effective, campaigns should:
- Lower the barriers to entry. Make it easy for people to get involved.
- Present a clear message that resonates with your audience and motivates them to take action.
- Show authenticity of expression.
In this video, Helvetas’ staff share case studies and learnings on digital advocacy campaigns designed to: increase voter turnout and inform voters about candidates in Kosovo’s local elections; drive engagement of the private sector in developing vocational education curriculum in North Macedonia; and incentivize Albanians to declare their address to the government.
Digital Advocacy Challenges
While digital advocacy presents incredible opportunities, it also comes with dilemmas and risks. It is important to recognize the limitations of digital tools and to integrate these findings into strategies. The design phase of campaigns should address bridging the gap between online activism and offline engagement and consider how they will ensure inclusivity.
The Future of Digital Advocacy
Digital advocacy will continue to evolve. Educating audiences about media literacy, leveraging artificial intelligence, navigating the digital landscape, and recognizing the importance of face-to-face interaction are key areas that will shape the future of digital advocacy. By following a structured approach, embracing authenticity, and remaining adaptable, your campaign can maximize its effectiveness and create a more positive and inclusive society.
About the Authors
Valbona Karakaci, PhD, is a Regional Advisor for Helvetas in the Western Balkans. She has 20 years of progressively responsible experience in managing complex interventions in the field of international development cooperation.
Masa Babic is a Communications Officer for Helvetas Serbia. She has more than 15 years of experience working with government institutions, the nonprofit sector and international organizations.