Researchers and practitioners concerned with sustainable livelihoods have identified the need for lesson learning materials on how to understand and engage with policy processes to promote sustainable livelihoods. This paper responds to that need and offers a framework for understanding the policy processes, tools and ideas that are needed to engage with and influence policy. The study is part of a wider DfID funded project and involved fieldwork in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Mali Divided into two parts, the paper looks firstly at understanding policy processes, and secondly at strategies for shaping policy processes which include understanding the governance context, recognising policy narratives, mapping actor networks and identifying policy spaces. Four key challenges for engaging with policy emerge from this analysis: À To understand different governance contexts, and how they offer varying types of space for voice in policy processes À To identify policy narratives and how they reinforce particular framings of policy problems. Where these exclude the livelihood interests and perspectives of the poor, it becomes important to build equally effective counter narratives À To map the networks of policy actors that determine different policy positions. Transforming policy is essentially about transforming policy networks, and enrolling actors in new networks À To identify and make use of policy spaces. Change is all about identifying opportunities. These spaces May be located and anticipated through policy process analysis. On other occasions they emerges unexpectedly. Being ready to make use of policy space is key to successful policy change.