By Noel Schroeder —

Women Thrive’s newest report, Getting Equitable Education on the Global Agenda: Lessons from Collective Advocacy at the United Nations, recounts our nearly four years of efforts to secure a sustainable development goal on equitable learning and raise the voices of developing country experts in U.N. decision-making. Over these last few years, we’ve learned a lot about how to make advocacy work on a global scale. The biggest lesson is this: you can’t do advocacy alone, and you can’t do good advocacy with strangers.

Building deep, lasting relationships with other organizations, activists, and leaders is the foundation of successful advocacy. The global women’s rights movement would be nothing if it consisted only of a disconnected set of women, men, and young people. By forging partnerships for collective advocacy, we are stronger together than we are apart.

When Women Thrive first began advocating for a global goal on equitable education, we interviewed more than 50 organizations around the world to get their thoughts: Is there effective advocacy around education? What issue should we be advocating on? How can we do it together? A common theme in those interviews was the need to develop strong partnerships between diverse organizations across the globe.

That’s why Women Thrive built its work around the idea of collective advocacy—coordinated activity to raise support for equitable education through partnerships with organizations that hold the same core belief that all children deserve access to quality learning opportunities.

In order to successfully advocate for a sustainable development goal that addresses the education crisis at the global level, Women Thrive promoted collective advocacy with advocates from both developing countries and inside the United States. We worked with U.S. advocates in coalitions like the Basic Education Coalition and the Global Campaign for Education US Chapter to reach U.S. policymakers and leverage their global leadership to build support among all countries for equitable education.

We worked with members of Women Thrive’s Alliance for Women’s Solutions, a diverse group of advocates including regional networks, national coalitions, community-based organizations, and local cooperatives whose advocacy agenda is grounded in the realities of women and girls living in poverty. With partners like the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) and Grace Association Pakistan, we held a megaphone up to women and girls to make sure that high-level decision-makers could hear them.

Building relationships takes time, and it’s not easy to coordinate advocacy across the globe — consistent access to communications technologies, funding for in-person meetings, and building consensus across different languages, priorities, and political and cultural contexts are difficult — but ultimately, advocacy objectives and messages are richer and more representative of the needs and realities of the diverse interests represented in the wider group.

Women Thrive was able to leverage the power of collective voice and collective advocacy to provide access and direct engagement with more decision-makers, and create an expanded support network of everyday activists that any one partner could not have mobilized on its own. More importantly, these partnerships allowed developing country advocates access to decision-makers and global engagement opportunities that would not have materialized otherwise due to cost, accreditation, or other institutional barriers. At many high-level meetings, partners have been able to make connections with new donors, decision-makers, and civil society organizations — something they would have been unable to do without the financial and technical support from Women Thrive.

After attending the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly last year in New York, Hendrina Doroba from FAWE wrote of the benefits of the partnership development for her organization’s networking:

“The fact that we are working as team with other partners of Women Thrive, it made it easier for us to learn and share experiences among ourselves and on a personal note, it gave me the opportunity to bond with other members of the Women Thrive network from other continents as well.”

All of this week, I’ll be sharing lessons here on Women Thrive’s blog about collective advocacy and doing it well. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, read our new report in full: Getting Equitable Education on the Global Agenda: Lessons from Collective Advocacy at the United Nations