Preparing a Position Paper
Having a solid position on an issue or policy is the first step to helping build support from others. A position paper, sometimes known as a case statement or a briefing, can help communicate the key ideas behind an advocacy effort.
This paper will have multiple audiences: government officials, elected officials, media, interested stakeholders and your own members. Each group will view your idea differently and therefore, it will have to be compiled to reach as many of these audiences as possible. The position paper can also be the key document that drives your messaging in your advocacy campaign.
IDENTIFY THE ISSUE(S)
A clear identification of the issue or issues of importance is the main purpose. Certain words can trigger different emotions about an issue, so it is important to provide a clear and objective view of the main issue. It is best to remain as positive about change as possible.
Example: Arts education is not being adequately addressed in Saskatchewan classrooms.
This is the place for facts, figures and case studies that will help clarify the issue in discussion. Use data from reliable sources, such as Statistics Canada, to provide the background. Testimonials and petition responses may be used; however, avoid anecdotal evidence if possible as this is viewed with less relevance by government officials.
Fact: Saskatchewan has a highly recommended arts curriculum
Fact: Due to policy changes, Saskatchewan classrooms are focused on increasing student numeracy and literacy skills.
IDENTIFY THE CHANGE NEEDED
Provide insight into how the issue could be addressed. Sometimes groups have one solution, or sometimes there are many. This section could contain discuss the pros and cons for each of the recommendations. The discussion could include identification of support for partners. However, the organization should identify its most favored solution or change. Some organizations go as far as drafting actual amendments to policy.
This is where you can also identify some key messages that can help rally your support.
Example: “What’s Left? Their Right to write?”
CALL TO ACTION
Once again, note the urgency of change required. Provide the next steps needed by leadership, or others, in bringing about the desired outcomes. Make it easy for all players to engage. Do not request expensive, long-term solutions. Request simple areas of action that can be accommodated easily. If something requires work – break it down into manageable steps.
Have a timeline and, if possible, a deadline for change to take place. Everybody wants everything right away – so give legislators and bureaucrats enough time to assess and determine their next steps. The timeline will include your next check in on the status of the issue. You might want to highlight public events where the issue will be presented and/or discussed.
As with every challenge, there are often many smaller steps leading up to great change. Be prepared to include regular updates into your position papers. The most updated version can be shared with new members and others who are interested in your issue or cause. If your network has grown to include many supporters, you might want to consider a newsletter to share updates and unite support on a regular basis.
A Guide to Government Relations for Directors of Not-For-profit Organizations, by Huw Williams, and Lou Riccooni, Canadian Society of Association Executives, 2003.
Advocacy Tool Kit. Schizophrenia Society of Canada
Taking action on child and family poverty. Advocacy Position Paper. Health Officials Council of BC,