The Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP) is a support network for staff working with archives and special collections in Higher Education (HE) in the United Kingdom. The HEAP Steering Group, comprising representatives of the HE archive sector and supported by staff at The National Archives, is responsible for planning and delivering activities to support the sector.

Advocacy recurs in discussion within the network and is frequently flagged by members as an area for which they would like additional guidance and support. This seems to be a topic of interest for all types and size of service, but with a particular relevance and need for small services. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused HE archivists to further prioritise advocacy efforts within their institutions.

The National Archives commissioned Kevin Bolton to develop resources to help support HEAP members in advocacy. Phase 1 of this work included desktop research and interviews with Higher Education (HE) archivists from a range of services to understand:

  • What HE archivists mean by advocacy.
  • The obstacles which prevent HE archivists from feeling able to advocate with confidence for their services.
  • The type of training, support and resources HE archivists require in advocacy.

Phase 2 has used the research findings to inform the development of this toolkit to support HEAP members in advocacy. After this introduction, the toolkit is organised into the following sections:

Section 1 – the toolkit: a page on each of the four advocacy steps, which includes a simple checklist and links to useful guidance/resources. The steps are:

  • Strategic alignment
  • Measuring impact
  • Identifying and understanding stakeholders
  • Communicating and connecting with stakeholders

Section 2 – quick read: some essential viewing/reading for those who wish to explore the topic further, but are short of time.

Section 3 – case studies: some practical case studies to accompany the toolkit, especially around communicating and connecting with stakeholders. Each section of the toolkit has links to the relevant case studies but here are all of the case studies together for reference:

Case study 1 – getting buy in from management
Case study 2 – creating an impact report
Case study 3 – forming an advisory board
Case study 4 – seizing the moment
Case study 5 – cultivating alliances
Case study 6 – raising awareness at inductions

What is advocacy?

Hackman (2011) defines advocacy as ‘activities consciously aimed to persuade individuals or organisations to act on behalf of a program or institution.’

Roe (2019) defines advocacy as ‘giving a focused, purposeful message to a targeted audience to effect a positive change for your cause.’

This toolkit has a strong emphasis on undertaking advocacy within the archive’s parent institution (especially with senior management and decision makers) and funders. For the purposes of this toolkit, we define advocacy as ‘activities undertaken by HE archives staff that ensure those in a position of influence or power, especially within their institution, understand the value of the archive and as a result are more likely to allocate resources/support or not reduce current levels of resources/support.’

Advocacy is an increasingly important part of modern working life. Influencing decision-making and increasing awareness of your impact and contribution to organisational priorities can bring significant and tangible benefits to the day-to-day work of your service and its ongoing sustainability. We recognise that making a shift in how you prioritise within a challenging workload to free up time for advocacy can feel uncomfortable and even counter-intuitive. This toolkit aims to help you make that shift by offering practical tools and insights into how other services have gone about taking small but important steps forward.


Hackman, L. J. (2011). Many happy returns: advocacy and the development of archives. Society of American Archivists.

Roe, K. (2019). Advocacy and awareness for archivists. Society of American Archivists.