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• Public Policy and Advocacy — Reading
• Advocacy — Assignment

Supports for the hunger strike, Tibetian Youth Congress at the United Nations, April 2004

Public Policy, Advocacy and Lobbying — Terminology

Prepared for Public Policy and Preservation, Discussion with RWU HP 202: Preservation Planning class, by Karen L. Jessup, PhD, Chair, Board of Advisors, National Trust for Historic Preservation, November 17, 2005.

Public Policy

Public policy is a policy the objective of which is the common good; it is a policy which its maker(s) believes will serve the people well.

A policy is a course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a given problem or interrelated set of problems. Atkinson observes that "policy is a theoretical construct. It is a course of action, yes, but action that is anchored in both a set of values regarding appropriate public goals and a set of beliefs about the best way of achieving those goals."* The idea of public policy assumes that an issue is no longer a private affair. Policy analysis is the "disciplined application of intellect to public problems." It reduces to one question: what are we going to do about the problem in view?

In the best case, public policy, and public policy development should be driven by a vision of the future that builds the capacity of our society to achieve a safe, healthy, and prosperous, country. It must be recognized, though, that although all our political parties would embrace those themes, the specific policy directions they choose to achieve them may differ widely. So, from government to government and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction we must accept that people with good intentions can differ profoundly on the policies needed to achieve common goals. This produces the dynamic tension between the stakeholders in policy development, and it is from this tension, and the consensus building that accommodates it, that strong policy is developed.

* From: Definition of Policy Analysis by Robert Wolf, PhD, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, Canada, with emphasis added.


An advocate is someone who defends or maintains a cause. Advocacy is the active engagement in efforts to create or effect changes in policies or systems. Advocates seek to influence outcomes (i.e. public policy, resource allocation, etc) by highlighting critical issues, influencing public attitudes and providing individuals with the necessary tools to have a voice in the decision making process. Advocacy efforts can take many forms, including education, media, direct action and lobbying.


There are two forms of lobbying defined under US federal regulation. Direct lobbying is communication with an elected or appointed governmental official or a governmental employee who is in a position to participate in the formulation of legislation. This communication refers to a specific piece of legislation or governmental regulation, and expresses your personal view about it. Grass roots lobbying is communication that attempts to influence specific governmental action (including legislation) by encouraging the general public — who may sometimes be members of a group or organization sharing common concerns — to contact legislators about that legislation or action. Such a communication should (1) refer to a specific piece of legislation; (2) reflect a view on it; and (3) encourage the recipient to take certain action or contact a legislator about a piece of legislation or governmental regulation.