Policy & Campaigning

Policy, Campaigning & Advocacy

Policy work is a big part of working in the charity sector, especially if organisations want to advocate or lobby for change in areas of social development. Policy work includes writing and researching for policy documents, advocacy, campaigning, legal/policy research, lobbying and awareness raising. For some policy work, a legal background is required which makes policy a good area of work for legal professionals to transfer into if making career changes. It also suits volunteers with a background in research, writing and communications with a strong interest in legal reform.

Policy & Advocacy

Many development organisations and civil society groups have expertise in specific issue areas and they often consider communicating their knowledge or views to the government or the wider public to be one of their key functions. To take an example, Amnesty International lobbies and advocates for the protection of human rights and raises awareness of human rights through campaigns. Through this role, civil society organisations can help to shape policy, lead public opinion and encourage positive action on important issues. NGOs can take on the ‘voice’ of small communities and advocate for change in many areas of social development.

Policy Research 

Research plays an important role in policy work – to advocate change, organisations first need evidence and an understanding of the current situation. An NGO concerned with the rights and treatment of prisoners, for example, may conduct legal research to establish whether there is adequate provision within the existing legal framework to tackle the problem. They could then propose changes and help governments draft legislation on the issue. An environmental NGO, on the other hand, may need field researchers to establish the environmental impact of a policy or business activity – the NGO can then use the information to assess whether change should be made. Volunteers with a background in law, policy or science can help organisations to produce research and make a cohesive case based on the findings.

Working with Governments

To bring about change in their chosen area, civil society organisations often have to build relationships with government officials and politicians and use their connections to lobby for policy decisions. Campaigners must therefore be adept at networking and communicating their arguments in a persuasive manner. Taking the example of an NGO concerned with prisoners’ rights, the organisation would have to communicate the findings of its research to a wide audience, and make convincing arguments about the need for action.


Public campaigns require organisations either to harness public support in favour of a policy change, or to raise public awareness of an important topic.  In the case of campaigns that seek to generate public support for change on an issue, NGOs employ a variety of methods to deliver their message, and the emphasis is on ensuring that communications are clear and persuasive. Volunteers with good writing and presentation skills and those with a passion for particular issues will find themselves highly valued in campaign groups.


Placements in Policy

Policy based placements can be found in any area of development – educational policy, health policy, environmental policy, economic policy and especially human rights based policy and campaigning. Policy is an area of work that requires strong communications skills, writing and research skills.