Evaluation is a powerful tool for learning, improving strategy, and making the case to funders for why advocacy work is critical to the issues they care about. Advocacy evaluation is a specific variant on evaluation, with a set of tools, processes, and approaches that are as adaptable as advocacy itself and help to define why advocacy matters.
The toolkit will walk you through the process of defining your work in a way that makes it easier to evaluate, identifying a narrow and useful focus for your evaluation efforts, collecting and analyzing data, and then using the results.
Advocates can engage in evaluation for many different reasons:
- Sometimes, advocates are seeking to identify ways to improve specific strategies. In this case, an advocacy evaluation might be very focused, looking only at community events or the effectiveness of policy briefs.
- Sometimes, advocates are seeking to understand how they contribute to changes on a priority issue. This type of evaluation might look at things like message framing, the number and actions of political champions, and placement of the issue on the policy agenda.
- Often advocates are seeking to tell their story to funders or partners, including all the ways they made a difference before, during, and after critical policy wins. These evaluations tend to look at changes in the capacity of advocates to undertake different types of campaigns, expansions of the number and type of advocates, strengthening coalitions and partnerships, increased visibility of a key issue, and many other things an advocate can influence on the way to affecting policy change.
Advocacy work is often adaptive, changing in response to the external environment and leveraging windows of opportunity. For this reason, predefined evaluations that are static, implemented by an external evaluator who is not part of the day to day advocacy work, can miss the mark. This toolkit is designed to help advocates themselves implement evaluation, allowing for evaluations that are as adaptive and nimble as advocacy itself and to increase the likelihood the information will have immediate relevance and use for the advocates.
While this toolkit is designed for advocates to be their own evaluators, there are times when a trained evaluator can be helpful.
- You may want to engage an evaluator upfront, to help you develop a Theory of Change;
- Someone with research training can be very helpful when you’re designing your data collection tools ; and
- An evaluator can help you find efficient ways to analyze or summarize your data.
Working with evaluators may also help you build your internal capacity as you learn about how they would approach these activities.
There are a number of resources available for developing advocacy evaluation plans, some of which are identified in the Other Resources section. These resources include online tools for developing logic models, identifying benchmarks, and otherwise undertaking the work of evaluation. Many of the other resources complement the information in this toolkit, particularly around providing easy-to-use resources for focusing your evaluation and collecting and analyzing data.