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Learn how demonstrating economic benefit or harm can be part of an effective advocacy campaign, and discuss how to go about doing it.


  • What do we mean by economic benefit and harm?

  • Why should you demonstrate economic benefit or harm?

  • When should you demonstrate economic benefit or harm?

  • How do you demonstrate economic benefit or harm?

Parsons High School was old - everyone was in agreement on that. It had been built in 1928, and the last time it had had any major improvements was in 1964. Its electrical and phone systems were inadequate for proper computer hook-ups, its science labs were hopelessly out of date, and its heating system gave out at least once every winter. When it rained, the roof leaked in so many places that it was no longer possible to determine where to patch it. The gym and cafeteria were too small, and there was no auditorium at all.

Many residents of the community felt it was time to build a new school, but many others worried about the cost. Elderly residents, particularly, many of whom were retirees with no families dependent on the schools, were concerned about the new school's effect on their income. Working families were dubious, too: they wanted to know how the school would change the tax rate. These groups favored fixing up the old high school. Rather than uniting in support of a new high school, the community was dividing over the issue.

A group of citizens that favored a new school decided to do some research. They found that the state had set aside money for building schools, and would absorb 80% of the cost, as well as providing design resources and the opportunity to obtain building materials at a reduced rate through the state buying consortium. The result was that it would cost considerably less to build a new school than to fix the old one. The tax increase to build the school would be minimal, coming out to just over $50.00 a year for the average homeowner.

Furthermore, the group learned through visits and state census statistics that other, similar communities that had built new high schools in the past ten years had experienced significant economic growth as a result. Businesses were more willing to locate in communities with new schools: attention to education showed a commitment to families that their managers found attractive, and they brought high-paying jobs into town.

Once the community understood that the new high school would cost them only a small tax increase, and was likely to bring new jobs, most of the objections melted away. The new Parsons High School project was approved by an overwhelming vote.

Successful advocacy often depends on being able to present a change in economic terms. If you can show people that they or their communities are likely to benefit from a proposed change, they are apt to be in favor of it. By the same token, if you can show them that a change - or resisting change - will prevent them from economic harm, they will usually support your position. In this section, we'll examine how demonstrating economic benefit or harm can be part of an effective advocacy campaign, and discuss how to go about doing it.

What do we mean by economic benefit and harm?

The economic consequences of a particular circumstance, action, or policy are those which affect the overall economic health of a community or region, or those which affect its commercial sector, or both. These two areas are closely connected, but they're not exactly the same. The first has to do with the financial and other economic issues that touch the lives of individuals and families and act upon the overall well-being of the community. The second bears specifically upon the financial circumstances and possibilities of a community's businesses. The second may profoundly influence the first, and vice-versa.

Advocacy covers a very broad range of possibilities, so you may be advocating for or against the establishment or continuation of a health or human service program; for or against a legislative action; for or against funding in a particular area; for or against actions or policies that affect the environment; for or against the actions or establishment of a particular business or agency.

Community economic benefit or harm

Communities, like families, need a certain amount of money to operate. They are generally expected to fund schools and such other municipal services as police, firefighting, road repair, garbage collection, perhaps some health and/or human services, and water and sewer systems. In addition, they have to pay the elected and appointed administrators who keep all of this running. In general, the majority of this money comes from taxes - in most places in the U.S., property taxes and taxes on businesses - with a much smaller amount from fees.

In order for a community to have enough tax money to function well and provide necessary services, it needs a strong tax base - a foundation of citizens and businesses that are making money, and own buildings and land that hold their value. When a large employer moves out of a community, it takes a big part of the tax base with it. When one moves in, it often brings prosperity to the community as a whole as well as to those individuals whom it employs. So the ability of a community to attract and keep employers that, among them, provide steady work at good pay for large numbers of people, and to maintain the value of its housing and land, has a lot to do with its overall economic health.

That health includes the ability of its citizens to be productive in several ways - as workers, as citizens, and as family members and parents. Citizens need the skills and attitudes necessary to get and keep jobs that support them and their families. They should have the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to contribute to the community by voting intelligently, volunteering, voicing their opinions, and serving as appointed or elected officials. And they have to raise the next generation well to maintain the community after they're gone. Helping citizens who need it to gain the foundation for that productivity through employment training, adult literacy, youth leadership programs, mentoring, and other services is an important element in community economic benefit, and ultimately leads to a more prosperous community.

Economic benefits aren't measured only in dollars. For most people, it's the balance of the various things they need to live a decent life. Many may be willing to sacrifice a certain amount of money or other material wealth for such considerations as personal satisfaction, low stress, clean air and water, open space, a warm and friendly community, cultural opportunities, etc.

We all face economic decisions that take a lot of different elements into account. Should I take the job that offers the most money, or the one that I'll be happiest at? Do I want to live in the country badly enough to face a long commute every day? Should we trade the satisfaction of being parents for the freedom of remaining childless? Although not all of them involve money directly, these are all economic decisions.

Factors that might be considered in determining community economic benefit or harm include:

  • Job opportunities. This includes both job opportunities that currently exist in a community, and the potential job opportunities that could be attracted or discouraged by some of the other factors below.
  • Health issues. An out-of-proportion incidence of cancer in the community, or a number of "dirty" industries may discourage families from moving there, while the presence of a good community hospital or clinic might be a positive factor.
  • Quality of life. Physical surroundings, opportunities for outdoor recreation, safety and security, good neighbors, and low stress might all contribute to a high quality of life, attracting residents and businesses. Negatives in these areas might work against a community.
  • Opportunities for children, including schools and recreation.
  • Cultural life. A vital cultural scene - performing arts, libraries, museums, etc. - can be a cornerstone of economic development for an area, attracting restaurants and cafes, bookstores, and other culturally-related businesses, as well as tourism.
  • Expenses. The cost of a house, of commuting, of recreation, of medical care are all part of the desirability of a community.
  • The civic climate. How friendly is the community to business? To the environment? To minorities? To children? To low-income residents? Are there opportunities to serve?

Commercial economic benefit or harm

In general, economic benefit or harm in the commercial sector is fairly simple to identify. Circumstances, actions and policies that support or help area businesses - and don't harm other areas of community well-being - are of commercial benefit. Circumstances, actions and policies that discourage businesses from coming into the community, or make it hard to operate once they're there - again, assuming those actions or policies aren't necessary to protect or sustain the community - are likely to bring commercial harm.

As with community benefits and harm, not all these factors directly concern money. Many do: the tax structure, for instance; the community's willingness or unwillingness to provide subsidies for a new plant, or other incentives for new businesses to move in; whether or not citizens buy from locally-owned businesses; the local availability of natural resources and transportation; and the skills of the existing workforce. All of these speak directly to a business's bottom line.

Other factors, some of which have already been mentioned, make a difference as well, however. These include:

  • Good schools. By and large, businesses look for communities where their executives can feel comfortable raising children.
  • Job training or skills training programs (English as a Second or Other Language, computer skills) can increase the community's pool of workers.
  • Environmental preservation may help established businesses or set the stage for new businesses in the area - eco-tourism, restaurants, sporting goods and clothing stores, etc. - by increasing tourism and making the area a more desirable place to live.

By the same token, environmental laws may pose a problem, at least in the short term. New England fishermen struggle with the balance between maintaining stocks of commercially valuable fish, and being able to fish enough to make a living. Problems like this often don't have simple solutions.

  • Pollution may harm businesses that depend on clean water (breweries or fisheries, for instance), or scare away businesses because of quality-of-life issues.

Why should you demonstrate economic benefit or harm?

Economic consequences are often the easiest for people to understand. Many may not be swayed by arguments about fairness or social justice, but will be convinced if they can see some potential economic advantage or disadvantage to themselves. We would all prefer that everyone understood and responded to arguments of conscience, but that is not the reality.

Legislators, for instance, tend to see most issues in terms of benefit or harm to their constituents and/or to their chances of reelection. They are constantly beset by questions about how people's tax money is being spent, and as a result, they tend to look at the economic results of nearly anything they fund - whether or not that's appropriate. They may be beholden to business interests, whose main concern is generally their own bottom line. If you can't demonstrate an economic reason for doing or not doing something, most legislators aren't interested.

Many legislators will be very open about their concern with economics and elections. At a meeting with human service providers, a state senator said, "You people have us at a disadvantage, because you're thinking in the long term: we think only two years [one election cycle] at a time." Another state senator often uses a quote that refers to the same thing: "A politician looks to the next election; a statesman looks to the next generation."

Another issue here is that at least a sizeable minority of the public doesn't understand the point of taxation. They see it as a way for the government to take away their money and do who knows what with it. They think that everyone's lining his pockets except them, and they feel cheated and taken advantage of. Practically the only argument that will move them is an economic one: if you can show them that you're saving them money, or keeping their money from being wasted, they'll support you.

Economic arguments are powerful because they touch everyone in a community. Whether the business you own is the largest employer in town, or whether you're the lowest-paid worker in that business, economic factors that act on the community will act on you as well. When someone talks about economics in a way that relates to you, you're apt to listen.

Finally, as we said earlier, economic arguments are often easy to understand. They boil down to a simple matter of one thing being more or less expensive - usually in money, but sometimes in other resources, or in quality-of-life issues - than another. If they have clear choices, people don't have to apply high-level analytical skills to decide whether they want A or B.

For all these reasons, demonstrating economic benefit or harm can be a very effective advocacy tool.

When should you demonstrate economic benefit or harm?

  • When you're trying to get legislation passed or policies changed. If you can demonstrate the economic benefit of a piece of legislation or policy, you're much more likely to convince legislators to support it. Several states, for instance, have passed legislation in support of adult literacy, largely because of the argument that it strengthens the workforce and makes businesses more competitive in the global marketplace.
  • When you're opposing legislation or policy change. The same economic arguments are likely to work in opposition as in favor: if it's going to cost more in the long run than it saves, or if it's going to injure constituents, don't do it.
  • When you're supporting an action or policy that will have clear economic benefits. If you're in a position where you can advocate for a win-win situation - pushing for a youth program that's been shown to keep at-risk teens in school and out of jail or juvenile detention, for instance - you can emphasize the economic advantages. It costs a great deal more to keep someone incarcerated than it does to provide services. Most preventive programs of the sort mentioned spend between $1,500.00 and $5,000.00 a year per participant; incarceration costs upward of $50,000.00 a year per inmate in most states. It's easy to see that an effective preventive program can save the taxpayers a great deal of money.
  • When you're opposing an action or policy that will have clear economic drawbacks. A development plan in a rural area that will adversely affect a lucrative tourist industry, for instance, or the building of a mall that will effectively put downtown merchants out of business, might look like an economic plus, but can contribute to real economic problems in a community. Although there are many reasons you might oppose these possibilities - on environmental grounds, preserving the character of the community - the economic consequences are likely to be most convincing to the greatest number of people.
  • When your advocacy involves a controversial issue. If people have strong feelings about an issue, there are few lines of reasoning that are likely to change their minds. If you can make an economic argument, however, you have a chance to get them on your side.
  • When you're alerting the public to the importance of an issue. Most people don't know the costs of ignoring such community problems as hunger, homelessness, and unemployment. The costs of addressing these problems are almost always less than the costs of ignoring them. If you can demonstrate those costs to the public, they'll better understand the necessity for dealing with the issue at hand.
  • When you're engaged in a community planning process. Calling attention to economic factors is vital, whether you're planning for education, services, or long-term development. People often don't look beyond the immediate future. They may see a particular action as having a short-term gain, and not realize that that gain brings with it a much greater loss over the long term. You have a chance, by demonstrating the real economic advantages and disadvantages of various courses of action or policy, to influence the future of the community for the better.

How do you demonstrate economic benefit or harm?

In order to demonstrate convincingly that an action or policy will have economic benefit or harm for the community or a particular group, there are three steps to take. You have to start by doing the research - this chapter is about advocacy research, after all - to make sure you know whatever you need to know to make a convincing case. Then you have to analyze carefully what you've learned, so that you can intelligently discuss the short- and long-term consequences of different courses of action or policy. And finally, you have to frame an economic argument that speaks to the people who most need to hear it.

It should be mentioned here that advocacy for an action or policy can be either a push for change or a protection against change. Doing nothing can be an action or policy in itself.

Do the research

You may have to engage in several different types of research to get all the information you need.

  • "Academic" research to learn the science, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, educational theory, or whatever else is necessary to clearly understand the issue and be able to explain it to those you're trying to convince and counter the arguments of opponents.
  • Studies to find out what works and what doesn't, or to find out the consequences of particular methods or procedures.
  • Interviews with both experts and those affected about the actual effects of the issue in the community.
  • A combination of library and archive research and interviews to find out what happened elsewhere when similar things were tried. In this situation, you're looking for the real results - not just what was presented to funders, or what people "thought" happened. Rather, you'll want to find out, among other things:
    • What happened in relation to what people expected?
    • What would they have done differently (or what have they already changed)?
    • What were the unexpected consequences, positive and negative?
    • Do all the stakeholders - those directly or indirectly affected (that could include both participants and staff members of an intervention, for instance, as well as the families and employers of participants) - feel the same way about what happened and about the consequences?
  • Research to find credible experts to refer to. "Credible" in this case means people with no particular axes to grind, who have not only research credentials, but actual in-the-field experience in whatever the issue is.

Determine the possible short- and long-term consequences of the actions or policies in question

Don't look only for economic consequences here: understanding what all the consequences are will make it easier to understand economic consequences as well. Sometimes these are linked to other outcomes that seem at first to have nothing to do with economics at all. The self-esteem developed by participants in a literacy program may strongly influence their ability to find and maintain employment over the long term, for example.

No one can be sure of predicting the consequences of a current action or policy. Many well-meaning policies have turned out to be disastrous, while others - meant only to address a small problem, or even simply to profit a small group - have been unexpectedly positive. There are, however, several ways to try to predict consequences:

  • Look at past experience. What's happened in other communities, or in your community in similar situations. Is there anything in the literature that talks about this?
  • See what the experts say. Are there theories about what might happen? What are they based on? (The fact that someone's an expert only goes so far, as implied above - they don't necessarily know any more than anyone else unless they have some real experience.)
  • Brainstorm with a group. Assemble a group of people who have some experience with the issue - including people directly affected by it - and try to think of every possibility you can, no matter how outlandish. When you're done, you can sort out what actually might happen, and decide how likely it is.
  • Be aware of and think carefully about the possibility of unintended consequences. What are the possible downsides of ideas that look beneficial? The "obvious" solutions to problems often have their own, sometimes worse, problems built in.

Providing job training for people on welfare, for example, looks like a self-evident way to get them off the public dole and onto the work rolls. It's a good idea, but it often fails to take into account whether the trainees have the basic skills to be successful in the training. If not, they often fail, and end up back on welfare with the sense that their quest for a job is hopeless, because they simply aren't capable of being trained. Only if basic skills are taken into account, and provided where they're necessary, is job training an effective way to help welfare recipients become wage earners. If basic skills aren't considered, the unintended consequences of the program might be to mire trainees even more deeply into unemployment.

Analyze the short- and long-term consequences of the actions or policies in question

Once you have an array of potential consequences to the actions or policies you're advocating for or against, it's necessary to analyze them to determine who will benefit from them, and how, and who might lose by them, and how.

Some questions to use in analyzing short- and long-term consequences:

  • What exactly do short- and long-term mean for the issue at hand? In the case of an environmental clean-up, for instance, even short-term consequences - positive or negative - may be years in the future, and long-term might be measured in decades. In the case of employment programs, or programs meant to keep former inmates from being reincarcerated, short-term results might be measured in months, and long-term might be two or three years.
  • Who, specifically (if anyone), will benefit - economically or otherwise - in the short and long terms from the action or policy in question?
  • Who, if anyone, will be harmed - economically or otherwise - in the short and long terms by the action or policy in question?
  • Do short- or long-term benefits - economic or otherwise - come at a cost to someone else? To whom? That cost may be in money, or may be in other areas - health, services, or quality of life.
  • What's the balance between costs and benefits, and in whose favor?
  • Who is making the decisions about this issue? How could they benefit from their decision? How could they be harmed by it?
  • What do the decision-makers know or care about what's at stake for those most affected?

Policy decisions are often made by legislators or legislative staffers who have no experience with the issue about which they're deciding, and little or no connection with the people whom it will affect. That's one of the main reasons that advocacy exists - to provide the perspective of those who will actually have to deal with the consequences of policy decisions.

  • What might short-term consequences lead to over the long term?

Understanding how long-term consequences grow out of the short-term consequences of actions and policies can be a complex exercise. In the 1960's and '70's, many American cities set out to "revitalize" their downtowns. They cleared what they considered slum neighborhoods of row houses and tenements, and put up showcase high-rise office buildings. The new buildings and improved services attracted business, and it looked like urban renewal was a great success.

Within a few years, however, the real consequences of the urban renewal projects became clearer. The neighborhoods that had been cleared - many of them filled with three generations of working class families who had grown up and lived their whole lives on the same streets - had been the life blood of the city. When their residents were forced to move, inner cities became empty and dangerous ghost towns, inhabited only by those who couldn't afford to leave, and those who preyed on them. During the day, downtown looked fine: after dark, it turned into something out of a science fiction nightmare.

Middle class citizens ran for the suburbs, destroying the tax base for schools and city services. Industries often moved out, because the workers they had depended upon - those working class families that had been cleared out of the "slums" - were no longer available. Cities like Newark, New Jersey, and Hartford, Connecticut, which had been vital communities, were suddenly poster children for urban problems - dirty, dangerous, and overwhelmingly poor.

Even by the turn of the 21st century, many of those cities had not recovered. The boon of urban renewal, meant to be of huge value to the cities that experienced it, often benefited only businesses, many of which, like their employees, left for the suburbs when the cities became unlivable.

That's why it's important to consider all facets of the issue when trying to determine the short- and long-term consequences of actions and policies.

Make the economic connections

To find economic connections if they're not immediately apparent, there are a number of areas to examine:

  • The tax base. Will the action or policy in question increase the tax base by adding more workers to the taxpaying rolls? By collecting more taxes from business? By attracting new business to the area, or increasing the profits - and therefore the taxes - of existing businesses? Or might it hurt the tax base by reducing area jobs, or acting to keep away new businesses or to reduce current business?
  • Jobs. Will the action or policy provide more or better jobs for community members? Or will it reduce the number of available jobs, or reduce the quality and pay scale of jobs available to the community?
  • The use of taxpayers' money. What kind of return will the public get on its investment or lack of investment?

Successful interventions that provide preventive health maintenance or training in such skills as adult literacy, job readiness, and money management, usually can be shown to save far more money in the long run than they cost. People who practice preventive health maintenance lose less time at work, and thus both make more money themselves (paying more taxes and spending more in local businesses) and earn more money for their employers (increasing the tax base). In addition, preventive health maintenance saves vast sums on medical treatment and insurance costs, thus reducing those costs for everyone. The training programs mentioned have been shown to help participants increase employment, reduce incarceration, and reduce debt, thereby becoming contributors to, rather than recipients of, public funds. Such programs are usually estimated by advocates to return about four dollars (in tax revenue and savings on welfare and incarceration costs) for every dollar spent on them.

Tax reductions, which are attractive to voters because they can see an immediate benefit to themselves, often cost taxpayers money in the long run, because they necessitate cutbacks in exactly the kinds of programs that save money over the long term. A million dollars in tax cuts, in a populous state, may mean a difference in taxes of a dollar or so per family per year, but a million dollars in program cuts may mean the difference between 200 people spending a year in jail, or spending a year working. The cost to taxpayers of keeping 200 people in jail for a year in most states is about $13 million. Even if that number is off by a factor of four, a million dollars in tax cuts could still result in a net cost of $2.25 million.

  • Effects on business. Does the action or policy have the potential to increase the profits of local business? The designation of a wilderness area or wildlife preserve could create more business for outdoor guides, equipment suppliers and renters, restaurants, motels, campgrounds, etc., through an increase in tourism. The establishment of a regional theater may bring more traffic to some of the same businesses, as well as book and record stores and other cultural attractions. An improvement in the school and/or adult education systems can result in a better educated work force that will increase the competitiveness and profit potential of area businesses.
  • Quality of life. Will the action or policy affect the non-money economics of the area by affording a benefit - or detriment - to the general quality of life? Ultimately, these non-money factors are tied to money, also. Businesses decide whether or not to locate in an area, for instance, at least partially because of the quality of life - schools, the environment, safety, cultural opportunities, recreation, etc. But quality-of-life issues are part of the economic balance for community residents as well, as discussed above. The possibility of catching and eating trout from the river, for example, may be worth more to citizens than the jobs a potentially polluting industry will bring.
  • Fairness. Part of the equation for a community should have to do with the fairness of the economic benefit or harm. If an action or policy brings great benefit to one group at the expense of serious harm to another - even if that second group is a small minority - that may not be fair. If it's a case of the powerful prospering at the expense of the powerless, that's an even more serious issue for a community to tackle. There are not always easy answers in this situation. Sometimes, it makes both economic and ethical sense to do what's best for the larger community at the expense of a smaller group; more often, perhaps, the ethical issues outweigh what's economically best for the majority. The ideal situation is one where everyone benefits, but that's not always possible. In any situation where there are economic winners and losers, the fairness of the actions or policies applied have to be considered.

Determine your target audience

You may be aiming what you have to say toward the whole community, but you may not. Perhaps you need to convince only a certain group - legislators, for instance. Or perhaps you realize that you should tailor your message for different groups, slanting it to speak to each group's concerns. No matter how compelling your economic arguments are, they won't do you any good unless they reach the people who should hear them. In order to make sure that happens, you have to decide who those people are.

Some groups that could constitute some or all of your target audience:

  • Opinion leaders, those who influence others - these could include clergy, community leaders, activists, large employers, or just average citizens with above-average credibility
  • Political leaders
  • Legislators
  • The business community
  • Particular ethnic or other groups - language minorities, or families with young children
  • People who live in specific neighborhoods or areas

Frame and deliver your message with your audience in mind

Once you've clearly defined your audience, you can frame and deliver your message accordingly.

There are some basic communication guidelines to consider here.

  • Use language that your target audience can understand. That may mean putting your economic arguments into plain, simple English, or it may mean translating them into the languages spoken by many in the target population or the community. Your message is useless if it's not understandable.
  • Be culturally sensitive. Make sure you understand the culture(s) represented in the target audience and the community well enough so that your message isn't offensive or incomprehensible to those you want to reach.
  • Use communication channels that your audience is familiar with. The Hispanic radio station, the Internet, the Chamber of Commerce newsletter, the bulletin board at the laundromat, the local-access cable TV channel - whatever means of communication the people you want to reach already pay attention to - are possible places to deliver your message.
  • Use spokespersons the audience trusts and can identify with. Popular or trusted community leaders, sports heroes, clergy, people directly affected by the issue - all might be effective spokespersons in the right circumstances, especially if they're affected in the same way as the audience by the economic issues in question.
  • Make your message memorable. This doesn't mean you have to scream it out, but rather that it should have a "hook" that sets it aside from all the other messages that bombard people every day. A slogan, a symbol, a distinct and familiar spokesperson, or an eye-catching question ("What are the health costs of your drinking water?") might all serve to catch your audience's attention.
  • Use themes familiar to your audience to attract them to what you have to say and make it more understandable. Talk about families, for instance, rather than governments, to introduce the idea of spending money with the expectation of a future return, or of some positive outcome you're willing to pay for (a child obtaining a college degree, perhaps).

If you follow these steps, and repeat your message at every opportunity, you should be able to make effective use of economic arguments to accomplish your advocacy goals.

In Summary

Most public policy initiatives have economic outcomes of some sort as either their main or subsidiary goals. Whether an effort is aimed specifically at increasing employment or attracting businesses, or whether it's directed toward community health issues that affect citizens' economic status through lost work time and increased health costs, it will have economic consequences for the community, for the commercial sector, and/or for particular individuals or groups.

Economics is not always a matter of money. Public health and the overall quality of community life, for instance, are economic issues as well. They are part of a larger economics of community that defines whether a community is a desirable place to live. They also affect the finances of a community, by attracting or repelling new business, residents with education and skills, and visitors who might spend money in the area.

Advocates can use arguments about the economic benefit or harm of a particular action or policy to great advantage, whether that economic consequence concerns just commercial interests or the community as a whole. Many segments of society are moved more by the bottom line than by appeals to justice or need. Furthermore, economic arguments are, at bottom, easy to understand: over the long term, you make money, break even, or lose money. If you can show people that they will incur economic benefit or injury as a result of a particular action or policy, they are likely to respond.

Economic arguments may be most useful when:

  • You're advocating for particular legislation or policy change
  • You're opposing particular legislation or policy change
  • You're advocating for a local action or policy with clear economic benefits
  • You're opposing a local action or policy with clear economic drawbacks
  • You're engaged in advocacy over a controversial issue
  • You're trying to alert the public to the importance of an issue
  • You're engaged in a community planning process

To demonstrate economic benefit or harm effectively, follow this process:

  • Do the research, including reviewing existing research and theory; conducting studies and surveys; interviewing those affected; finding out about others' experience; and finding and consulting credible experts
  • Determine the short- and long-term economic consequences of the action or policy in question
  • Analyze those consequences, defining who loses and who gains economically and otherwise from the action or policy contemplated or needing to be changed
  • Make the economic connections, based on the analysis
  • Define your target audience for advocacy
  • Frame and deliver your message with your audience in mind

If you follow this procedure, the chances are that you can successfully use economic arguments as part of an advocacy campaign.

Phil Rabinowitz

Online Resources

The Economic Opportunity Institute offers articles, policy, and research on economic issues. The focus is on moving low-income families up to the middle class, and keeping middle and working-class families from sinking into poverty.

The Economic Policy Institute offers research into achieving a "fair and prosperous economy."

The Economic Security Project promotes advocacy and education on economic security for all. This site offers to help you with your advocacy research.

Making the Case for Charities and NGOs is a webpage compiled by Oxford Economics which provides a variety of analytic tools to measure the impact of an organization’s work. 

The Open Directory Project offer articles, links, and resources on such economic topics as living wages, poverty, and income distribution.

SWOT Analysis for NGOs provides information for completing an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for NGOs.

Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact – This website provides more than 150 tools, methods, and practices for analyzing the social impact of an organization’s actions.