Some of the biggest impacts an organisation makes can be through its advocacy work. Such work to influence the behaviour of stakeholders takes time and is considered by some to be overhead rather than direct service to community, and therefore often unattractive to investors.
Cancer Council has used its standing as a community-based, independent agent for change to achieve some of their biggest social and health impacts. Paul Grogan, Cancer Council’s Director, Public Policy and Knowledge Management, notes, “to make a long-term impact in cancer prevention or cancer control, it involves advocacy”.
The advocacy legacy of the Cancer Council can be traced back to Dr Nigel Gray, Director of Cancer Council Victoria 1968- 1995. Dr Gray in effect developed a template for evidence-based, non-partisan tobacco control advocacy which was widely consulted by Australian prime ministers and world leaders.
A recent example is the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia; a world-first that has since been implemented in five other nations. While plain packaging is rightly associated with Nicola Roxon, the health minister who introduced it in 2010-11, Cancer Council first called for the measure in 1993. In addition, Cancer Council and its non-government allies worked in an independent, apolitical context to help ensure plain packaging had multi-partisan support.
Cancer Council truly demonstrates the value of advocacy. Paul Grogan states “the actual overhead involved in making the case for plain packaging was really modest compared with the outcome”.