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Policy Engagement

Engage with decision-makers, policy practitioners, and the public to advance changes that further your impact goals

Introduction

How can we advance our intended impact by developing effective strategies to engage in policy processes?

Generating positive social impact often requires working with stakeholders outside your own organization or collective, including partners, decision-makers, and the public. Policy Engagement strategies can be an effective pathway to advance sustainable change and address the root causes of the issues you are trying to solve.

If your organization or collective has an idea of how engaging in policy processes could fit your overall plan to reach your impact goals, there are a variety of methods that can help you work with other stakeholders in order to influence that shift.

Policy Engagement can lead to important outcomes through collaborative work at the local, provincial and national levels. There are many ways of doing so. 

For instance, you may want to engage a school board to advance the adoption of a program in their curriculum. Maybe you plan on working with your municipal council to develop a strategy to address food security issues in your community. Or perhaps you intend to engage several governments stakeholders and organizations. The latter was the case of the Coalition for Change to the Disability Gifts and Assets Limits, whose engagement process eventually catalyzed an important regulatory amendment to the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, providing long-term income security for thousands of people with disabilities. 

 

What is Policy Engagement?

Policy Engagement helps leaders of community-sector organizations understand, communicate, and work with policy-makers, practitioners, organizations, businesses, and/or segments of the public to promote policy changes that will advance the outcomes that their community seeks.

There is no one-size fits all in policy engagement processes. These are variable and impacted by numerous factors, including unpredictable changes and windows of opportunity in the political landscape. In addition, the intended impacts of such processes can take a long time to achieve.

Policy Engagement coaching can help your organization or collective:

  • Define the barriers and opportunities to advancing your policy engagement mission.
  • Design a plan for advancing policy solutions that further your impact goals.
  • Learn how to engage key policy makers by understanding their priorities, beliefs, and constraints and determining potential areas for success.
  • Work with others—including partners, policy champions, and/or decision-makers—to advance shared policy engagement goals.

This stream was formerly titled Constructive Engagement.

The Innoweave self-assessment tool is designed to help you determine your organization's readiness and whether your initiative or program model is well suited for Policy Engagement.

Self-
assessment

This assessment has 5 questions.

Please respond to each of the questions to the best of your ability by choosing the option that most accurately reflects your organizational context.

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Is addressing a clearly identified issue, practice, or policy challenge a part of your organization’s strategic plan/Theory of Change (i.e. part of your plans require you to create change by engaging stakeholders such as policy maker(s), practitioner(s), organization(s)/business(es), and/or segment(s) of the public)? Please note that the Policy Engagement stream is not designed to address funding issues.
Do you know which stakeholders (e.g. policy maker(s), practitioner(s), organization(s)/business(es), and/or segment(s) of the public) you need to engage to advance the changes to policies or practices that would help create your desired outcomes?
Do you have an understanding of how relevant stakeholders (i.e. policy maker(s), practitioner(s), organization(s)/business(es), and/or segment(s) of the public) view your issue?
What is your organization’s capacity to secure the human and financial resources needed to advance efforts to influence the actions of decision makers, policy practitioners, and/or other relevant stakeholders?
Does your organization have a clear idea of which other actors (if any) are working to advance similar intended policy engagement outcomes (e.g., organizations, networks, policy champions, community initiatives, etc.)?

Info Session

For groups interested in Innoweave’s Policy Engagement stream, we encourage you to watch a recording of our Policy Engagement Info Session:

Watch a recording
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Relevant Resources

Additional Resources

Coaches

Innoweave offers coaching support to organizations that are well positioned to implement a Policy Engagement approach. You can connect with an Innoweave coach to help you explore and implement your initiative. Then apply to Innoweave for funds to support that coaching engagement.

Sean Ferguson
Nicole Kovacs
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Apply for support

Your organization is eligible to apply for Innoweave coaching support if you have submitted an Expression of Interest and it has been approved.

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FAQ

These are our most frequently asked questions.

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Are there limits to the amount of policy engagement and advocacy our organization/collective can engage in?

 

As of 2019, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) removed limits on the amount of public policy advocacy allowed at Canadian charities. As a result, “a charity may devote up to 100% of its total resources to Public Policy Dialogue and Development Activities that further its stated charitable purpose.” (Government of Canada Guidance CG-027). 

 

 

We need to engage with governments to get better funding for our work. Is Policy Engagement the right approach?

 

No, Policy Engagement is not about fundraising. It focuses on engaging in policy processes or advancing policy solutions that can help lead to greater impact.

 

 

Our organization/collective is small, but we want to engage on big policy issues. How can we use Policy Engagement?

Coaching in this stream may help you identify how you can get involved in large policy issues, but you may need to consider acting through a broader coalition. Policy Engagement approaches may be able to help you plan how to do this. We also recommend visiting our Collective Impact coaching stream to learn more about how groups of organizations can work to advance shared impact goals.

Can Policy Engagement help us rally the general public behind our cause?

This stream is not focused on raising general public awareness of an issue. Policy Engagement focuses on targeted approaches to engaging decision-makers and policy practitioners (in public or private sectors) to work towards making changes to policies or policy-making processes that can advance your impact goals.