9.3 Problem analysis

CARE’s advocacy strategy for any issue must be based on a sound analysis of the problem in the context of the prevailing policy environment. Analysis of the policy environment is a critical step in understanding the causes and effects of various issues and formulating effective advocacy strategies.

Developing a reliable base of information is crucial to advocacy. Time constraints and multiple demands on programme managers may limit the capacity for information gathering and analysis, especially in the early days of a response. Gathering policy-related information through pre-emergency programming activities and surveys can be a useful starting point, and can be supplemented with rapid assessment data (see guidelines in the Chapter on Assessment).

Relevant information for problem analysis may be gathered from beneficiaries, local partners, external experts, government sources, other NGOs, the UN and the media. In all cases, CARE must always ensure not to expose beneficiaries or staff to security risks in the process.

It is critical to assess and verify all information for accuracy and bias, and rely on sources that are the most trustworthy and legitimate-including how they are perceived by the policymakers we are trying to influence. Using a diverse set of sources helps to provide a balanced picture. Because marginalised or vulnerable groups experience policy impacts in distinct and often harsher ways, the collection and analysis of information must identify and take into account the specific needs of women, ethnic and religious minorities, children and others (see the Chapter on Gender).


  • What are causes of the problem and who is most affected by it? This helps to determine whether advocacy is an appropriate response to the problem. Baseline assessments and surveys, interviews with local actors, and eyewitness accounts are all common approaches to gather humanitarian information, while tools such as problem tree analyses can be useful to analyse information (see Chapter on Assessment, and Annex 28.9 Problem Tree Analysis).
  • Who are the key actors and institutions that make or influence policy decisions on this issue? This involves identifying the actual individuals who directly make and implement policies, as well as those who can (indirectly) influence decision-makers and determine their positions on relevant policies and actions, their degree of influence, their resources, and their (political or economic) interests (see Annex 28.10 Stakeholder Map and Analysis Tool).
  • What is the social and political context? This includes identifying the distribution of political power among key actors-including civil society, understanding the formal and informal policymaking processes and determining the extent of public participation in decision-making on the given issue (that is, political or social restrictions on public dialogue). This analysis must also take into account the impact of local and national events such as elections, ongoing conflict, major policy changes and economic trends (see Annex 28.7 CARE’s Benefit-Harm Analysis Tool, pp. 23-24; and Chapter on Conflict sensitivity).
  • What are the options for policy change? After analysing the problem’s causes, effects, key actors and policy context, it may be possible to develop recommendations for policy solutions or changes necessary to address the problem.

What are the changes required for CARE’s advocacy to have a positive outcome or impact? What is CARE’s access to and ability to influence key officials and other audiences at the local, national and international level that can deliver the desired policy change? This analysis requires assessment of any significant political barriers to success as well as any political support among key policymakers, constituencies and allies for the advocacy goal and objectives.