Strategic Advocacy Initiative: Concept and Guiding Principles

Peer to Peer Technical Assistance for Lasting Results

Applications Open Through June 30 – Apply Now

NLADA is launching a new round of program visits to build civil legal aid strategic advocacy. This “Strategic Advocacy Initiative,” (formerly known as the “Strategic Advocacy for Lasting Results” (SALR) Initiative), provides confidential, peer-based assistance to National Legal Aid & Defender (NLADA) civil member programs to help them develop and expand their capacity to achieve broad-based results in their work, by identifying strategies to make change and developing a plan for implementation of such strategies. The Strategic Advocacy Initiative is a resource for programs that are not currently focused on broad-based advocacy, as well as those that want to improve or expand an aspect of their ongoing work.

The Strategic Advocacy Initiative provides direct technical assistance to selected member programs through peer visits of several days and follow up reports. Applications are now open through June 30. One member program will be selected for a peer visit this fall.

Questions about the program or application process? Contact [email protected].

Who Should Apply?

NLADA civil program members are invited to apply for this exciting program. Not a member yet? Join today and start taking advantage of this and our other great member benefits for all your program’s staff.

Become a Program Member

To fully benefit from this initiative, the program seeking assistance must be willing to invest time and resources as follows:

a. Planning time:  Programs must complete the application and define the goal(s) your program is trying to achieve in requesting assistance, followed by planning time prior to a visit to your program in coordination with the peer visitor team.

b. Staff time:  The peer visitor team will want to meet with some or all of the following staff or their equivalent during the visit, depending on the project goal and scope: program director, litigation or advocacy director, legal management team, appropriate staff attorneys, compliance officer, and front-line staff members. The visits will take place over two or three days in which the team will collaborate with staff to help identify ways the program can move forward its strategic advocacy for lasting results.

c. Programmatic commitment to the work: Perhaps most important is a strong commitment from leadership to make change in the existing culture and move that change forward. Without the vision and commitment of leadership, including top management and board, change will not happen or be sustained. The executive team will be expected to fully participate, including the executive director. 

d. Openness and transparency to the team: The peer visitor teams provide their assistance with utmost confidentiality and without any judgment. All participants will be encouraged to share openly and freely with the team, and this approach must be supported by leadership. Information shared will not be disclosed outside of the process, the program and the team without permission.

e. Commitment to follow up: Where appropriate, a team member will facilitate periodic follow-up calls after the visit.

f. Facilities: The program will provide a location for the meetings and lunches during the visit. It is ideal to meet at a location off-site to reduce distractions to program members.

g. Costs: The program will pay for the travel and lodging cost of the visitors, but not for their time. NLADA will work together with the program if there are possibilities for grants to support this work.


Learn about the value of participating in the Strategic Advocacy Initiative.

Selection Process

NLADA will invite programs to apply to participate, and make selections from the applicants. NLADA will give high priority to programs that are seeking to move into new areas of practice or respond to significant changes in client demographics or need. Such shifts are difficult but particularly important to address the results of economic turmoil, neighborhood change, and new laws, policies and practices that affect low-income people. This initiative is intended to support programs in integrating broad-based strategies as they rethink their priorities, advocacy goals and delivery methods.

Applications Open Through June 30 – Apply Now

Interested in participating as a peer evaluator? Participation applications will open soon. Contact [email protected] for details.

Additional Program Details

Under the former SALR initiative, in preparation for the first site visit, NLADA visited five organizations or regions which engaged in intentional strategic advocacy. With insights, tools and best practice gleaned from those visits, NLADA created this toolkit.



  • The project will target programs which are well poised to make change happen, with leadership who have both the clear commitment and potential to change the status quo. The Strategic Advocacy Initiative will provide direct technical assistance to selected applicant member programs through peer visits of several days and a follow up report.
  • The Strategic Advocacy Initiative is a peer to peer program and will draw from the expertise of legal aid leaders and emerging leaders from across the country to provide assistance. A team of peers with appropriate skills and experience will be chosen for the program visit. They will work together with program staff to identify strategies for change and make a plan to move the program forward.  
  • The Strategic Advocacy Initiative also serves as a vehicle for developing emerging leaders, by including less experienced advocates on the assistance teams. Their inclusion brings fresh ideas to the visiting teams while also providing insights to benefit their own programs and helping prepare a new cadre of national leaders.

Focus on Enhancing Systemic Advocacy

The focus of the Strategic Advocacy Initiative is on enhancing the capacity of legal services programs to conduct high quality “broad-based advocacy”.[1] The term “broad-based advocacy” encompasses a wide variety of approaches for achieving results that benefit more than individual clients. For example, it includes the strategic handling of individual cases to obtain precedential results or widely applicable declarations of law; affirmative litigation or policy advocacy designed to achieve systemic change or stop widespread bad practices; efforts to overcome recurrent barriers that prevent low-income people from overcoming poverty; promotion of economic opportunities and power in low-income communities through economic development work or participation in community-based coalitions; improvements to the judicial system for low-income litigants and the like. Broad-based results can be achieved through the use of a multi-faceted arsenal of advocacy tools.

Scope of Assistance

The initiative will provide assistance in the following areas:

  • Examination of program organization, systems, policies and expectations that promote or deter broad-based work.
  • Examples of program operation or systems that could be the focus of an assistance team are:
  • Helping develop clarity of program mission
  • Assisting leadership articulate and implement clear expectations regarding the importance of systemic work
  • Examining intake and case acceptance practices and their connection to systemic advocacy
  • Assessing case and work management, including caseload and workload expectations
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of legal work supervision
  • Helping the program measure the effectiveness of legal work or develop useful evaluation procedures
  • Strengthening training and professional growth opportunities for staff
  • Helping program staff develop a more strategic focus to their advocacy work by
  • Articulating, planning for and implementing advocacy goals, and making clear, deliberate and informed choices in focusing advocacy resources
  •  Identification of broad-based issues from direct services
  • Developing realistic strategies to address identified recurrent or systemic issues
  • Making room for pursuit of the broad-based issues that are identified
  • Assuring that chosen strategies are implemented
  • Helping programs determine whether and how to expand into new areas of practice by
  • Determining whether the current practice is meeting existing or emerging needs in client communities (e.g. community “listening”, needs assessment)
  • Setting priorities, making choices in light of needs assessment results
  • Advising and referring the program to resources that will assist the program in moving forward

[1] See Standard 2.6 of the ABA Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Services.