Experiments in Advocacy: What Works and Why

AdvocacyLabs, a partnership between FutureEd and 50CAN, draws on insights from academia to help education advocates work effectively on behalf of disadvantaged students. 

In Experiments in Advocacy: What Works and Why, author Marc Porter Magee focuses on the growing number of rigorous experimental studies of effective advocacy campaigns. By leveraging the power of randomized studies that isolate “treatments” from “controls,” this research points to advocacy tactics that get proven results.

In this report, researchers marshal the best experimental research of the past decade to help answer eight questions at the heart of long-standing debates among advocates in the field. Each chapter in this report opens with a specific question, moves on to experiments, delves into key lessons and closes with suggestions for further reading. The results challenge conventional wisdom and provide clarity often missing from advocacy how-to guides. 

1. Which calls to action work best? The three keys to success are self-disclosure, personalization and feedback. 

2. How do you craft more powerful messages? Focus on the future, the inclusion of details and the recruitment of unexpected spokespeople. 

3. Can persuasive arguments backfire? Yes. While negative framing can help shift public opinion, it also drives down collective action. 

4. How do you create momentum? Make your early supporters more visible, secure positive news stories about your cause and showcase the way public officials are listening and responding. 

5. Does grassroots lobbying work? It does and small numbers of people can make a big difference. 

6. Who gets access? Being a constituent or donor makes a difference in securing meetings with elected officials but racial discrimination can get in the way. 

7. Are elected officials good messengers? Yes and they can shift public opinion simply by staking out positions. 

8. Which inside tactics get results? Using surveys of constituents, fact-checking campaigns, highlighting policy examples from other communities and citing academic sources to maximize your credibility.

For more, see: https://www.future-ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Experiments-in-Advocacy.pdf