5 Stages of an Effective Environmental Advocacy Campaign

Guide your environmental advocacy campaign through these 5 stages to get on – and stay on – the path to campaign success.

So, you want to run an advocacy campaign for the environment but don’t know where to start. I have two things to say to you about that.

First, Bravo! Well done! Good onya! Nature needs you now more than ever before.

Second, don’t be surprised if you feel the need for some guidance to find your way.

You see, environmental advocacy campaigns are as complex as the environment issues they work to remedy. So complex that if you feel you can do it all without any help you are either a very experienced campaigner or you have more to learn than you realise.

Whichever group you belong to – or anywhere in between – you will find this article of great use to your campaign.

We start by giving short answers to frequently asked environmental advocacy campaign questions. Next, we outline the 5 stages that effective campaigns move through in pursuit of their campaign goals:

Ready? Let’s go!

What is environmental advocacy?

Environmental advocacy is activities that aim to protect the environment by influencing business and government decisions.

The most powerful tool available to environmental advocacy campaigns is people power – the change-driving force of many people speaking and acting together in support of a campaign goal. People power regularly overcomes the financial and political power of those who would damage the environment.

Building people power and directing it where it will have most impact is a crucial aspect of running an effective environmental advocacy campaign.

Who can run an advocacy campaign for the environment?

Short answer – anyone can!

And whether you’re a professional campaigner, or you’re fighting to protect your home, community or business from an environment issue, or you cannot stand by and watch while the environment is ripped to shreds, Silent Reef has the campaign training and tools you need to make your environmental advocacy campaign effective.

What can advocacy campaigns about the environment do?

Environmental advocacy campaigns work to protect the environment in many ways, including:

  • Protecting natural habitats, for example, through the creation of national parks and marine parks
  • Stopping, reducing or better managing environmentally destructive issues, such as developments on natural habitats and the release of harmful chemicals
  • Defending and creating legislation to limit environmental impacts
  • Raising community awareness of environments at risk and enabling people to take advocacy actions
  • Using the courts to ensure business and government abides by (what little) environmental legislation (remains)
  • Placing brave volunteers (campaigners and supporters) in arrestable positions when all other forms of persuasion are exhausted (not all campaigns use non-violent civil disobedience, it’s OK if you don’t want to take it this far)

However, effective environmental advocacy campaigns do much more than ‘just’ protect the environment. In fact, to gain maximum support for your campaign, you need to show your audience how your campaign protects nature, the local community and local businesses.

The 5 stages of effective environmental advocacy campaigns

To make your campaign effective you need to guide it through the following stages:

It is important to understand that moving through these stages is a circular journey (like riding a merry go round) and not a linear path (like climbing a ladder).

So reaching the revise stage does not mean you have come to the end. The end is only reached when you achieve your campaign goal or decide your campaign is over. No, reaching revise means it’s time to move once again through the stages, starting with research.

With this in mind let’s explore the 5 stages of effective environmental advocacy campaigns:

Stage 1. Research

Running an advocacy campaign about the environment is exciting. Every day is different – organising rallies, giving media interviews, meeting politicians, training volunteers… You will do few things in life that require such a broad set of skills.

But, running an advocacy campaign is also challenging.

It’s challenging when you can clearly see what you need to do and why. But the challenge is insurmountable when you are blundering around with your eyes closed.

How do you open your eyes to see clearly? Research.

Research to know what you’re talking about and what you’re up against. Research to keep you out of trouble (and by trouble I mean a court of law). Research so that your campaign achieves outcomes that really do protect the environment rather than outcomes that fizzle out with no lasting effect.

Advocacy campaign research is vital to campaign success.

Stage 2. Plan

After research comes planning.

Through your campaign research you learn what’s going on. Through your campaign planning you map out what you intend to do about it and how you will do it.

Our How to Plan a Campaign: A Step-By-Step Guide walks you through the campaign planning process. Be sure to also download our 9 Step Campaign Planning Quick Guide (Non-Student Version) from our Campaign Library (free membership).

Take your campaign skills to the next level

Plan your path to campaign success from tactics to goal with Silent Reef’s Write Effective Campaign Plans online course.

Stage 3. Deliver

OK, I get it – the first two stages are immensely frustrating when you just want to get out and do something!

Well, the time has come.

And as you move from research and planning to delivery take heart in knowing that your campaign is grounded in the facts (and so has a good chance of success) rather than fiction (which almost guarantees failure).

So, the question you may be asking now is, What exactly am I delivering?

The answer is found in the definition of environmental advocacy you saw at the start of this article – activities that aim to protect the environment by influencing business and government decisions.

These activities are the tactics that you wrote into your campaign plan in Stage 2.

An important point about campaign tactics is that they should never be chosen at random. Make sure you only use tactics that help achieve your campaign goal.

Take your campaign skills to the next level

Develop and deliver campaign messages that turn a passive public into active supporters with Silent Reef’s Communicate Effective Campaign Messages online course.

Stage 4. Measure

Here we go again – back to the dull stuff!

But here’s the thing – time spent measuring progress is time saved on activities that are not working. And for overworked and underfunded environmental advocacy campaigners that actually is quite exciting.

Measuring progress enables you to:

  • Recognise when progress has been made or a campaign solution is complete
  • Recognise when insufficient progress has been made and it is time to consider a different approach
  • Identify what works to repeat the same approach in similar situations
  • Identify what does not work to avoid wasting time, effort and funds
  • Improve campaign team member knowledge by sharing what does and does not work
  • Promote achievements to boost supporter, volunteer and team member morale
  • Demonstrate progress to managers, partners and funders
  • Check you are meeting timelines and working to budget

This stage can be immensely satisfying as you identify the outcomes achieved by your campaign. Remember to share the good news with your supporters and campaign team members.

Students of our Write Effective Campaign Plans course learn three types of progress measurements and how to build measurements into their campaign plans.

Stage 5. Revise

You’ve been running your campaign for a while and you’ve delivered some activities and measured progress. Now it’s time for a rethink.

And yes, this does require a return to research and then to planning. Here’s why this is important:

  • Research to make good decisions that account for the changed circumstances (some caused by your campaign) since you last found out what’s going on
  • Planning to use appropriate activities given the changed circumstances in which your campaign is now operating

Don’t worry, it’s easier now as you’re only checking what’s changed since you launched your campaign and updating your plan in response.

When your revised plan is ready you can return to delivery confident that your campaign is heading in the right direction.


Guide your advocacy campaign for the environment through research and planning to delivery. Then measure progress before revising your approach by returning to research. Repeat this circular journey until you achieve campaign success.

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About the Author

David Roe

Dave is Silent Reef founder and author of Silent Reef's training courses for environment activists. He is convinced that people power - wielded through advocacy and protest - is the best hope for our planet and all the critters that call it home.