The Role of Advocacy in Implementing Successful Enterprise Policies

10 March 2016 Category: Topical Review

In a previous opinion piece we spoke about the renewed focus on the development of sound enterprise policies by Governments around the world after a period in which the philosophy of “the market knows best” generally held sway.

Major world economies such as those in the Eurozone are now saddled with the debts of failed private enterprise and face  a sustained period of low growth.  Their Governments’  are thus having to plan carefully and prudently for a slow return to prosperity.  Nowhere is this more true than in Ireland where the collapse of banks and the construction industry is likely to cost the economy around Euro 40 billion net, according to the Governor of the Central bank.

Ireland has, in fact, a good track record of developing and implementing successful enterprise strategies, lead by the two national agencies responsible for promoting foreign (IDA Ireland) and domestic (Enterprise Ireland) investment. This would appear to be paying dividends as Ireland is currently the fastest growing economy in the Eurozone by a wide margin.

The Irish expertise in developing sustainable enterprise strategies has also been employed by many developing countries throughout the world, and is likely to be a growing activity.  Experts work with Governments and national enterprise agencies on this complex task. However, in order to turn a policy into an implementable strategy that can yield tangible results, it is often necessary to change the underlying business environment by removing legal, regulatory, fiscal and other obstacles.  Policy Advocacy has a key role to play in this endeavour.

Policy Advocacy is about the deliberate influencing of those who make policy decisions. This demands that one is clear about who one is trying to influence and what policies require to be changed. Some investment promotion agencies establish  a specific Policy Advocacy Dept. for this purpose (e.g. GAFI, Egypt’s National Investment Promotion Agency). Others encompass the role as part of their on-going operations (e.g. IDA Ireland).  Regardless of the specific organisational arrangements, some of the key activities to be undertaken are as follows:

1. Information Gathering: Ensure that all of the issues of concern to investors and the wider stakeholder community are communicated to the agency and discussed i.e. the process must go beyond issues proposed by the agency itself. Wide consultation is essential.

2. Understanding the Environment: Get to know the key policy makers and the political environment in which they operate.

3. Building Strategic Relationships:  Develop strategic relationships with policy makers, investors and the wider stakeholder community through, for example, Investor Forums where issues can be discussed in detail.

4. Understanding the Issue and Assessing Risk: Steps1-3willfacilitate a clear understanding of the key issues to be addressed and the likelihood of the solutions proposed being accepted.

5. Obtaining Board Approval: Seek the formal approval of the Board or Committee of the investment agency to pursue the desired policy change. This will require the development of a well written document clearly outlining the issue and the solution proposed, along with the supporting evidence. This is a skill in itself.

6. Implementation: Work with Government, investors and stakeholders to ensure, as far as it is possible, that approved policy change proposals are implemented.

7. Monitoring and Evaluation: Track and report progress and assess the beneficial effect the changes have made on the investment climate.

8. Link Advocacy to the Work of the Investment Agency: Clearly link the role of policy advocacy with the work of the investment promotion agency as a whole, so that it does not work in a vacuum.

9. Build Credibility as an Advocate: Build expertise to establish credibility with policy makers, investors and stakeholders.

10. Maintain Focus: Develop a short list of policy change priorities and those most likely to succeed.

11. International Relations: Establish relations with other Policy Advocacy experts to share experience and access expertise.