Section 07: Monitoring and evaluating your advocacy strategy

7.1: Why monitor and evaluate advocacy?

Monitoring and evaluation is an essential part of your accountability to your donors, managers and your other stakeholders, enabling you to demonstrate that your advocacy is making progress. But ongoing monitoring of your advocacy is also an essential advocacy activity in itself. It will help you identify whether:
  • The approach being taken is working in the current context
  • You need to change tack – especially if the political context has changed since you first drew up your strategy.
When providing a direct service like running a school or building a health clinic, your activities will generally result in the outcomes you envisaged. But with advocacy, your activities revolve around your interaction with external political actors over whom you have very little control. A slight change in the attitudes or actions of the key actors involved and the political context in which they are operating can mean that your advocacy strategy needs to change too. That’s why ongoing monitoring is so critical to your progress. Think of your advocacy as a constant cycle – even on a daily basis. You meet a politician – you reflect on what he/she said and what you learnt – you identify what all this means for your future actions – and then you plan your next moves.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: a cycle diagram that goes from Action, to Reflection, to Learning, to Planning, which then feeds into Action, and so on.

7.2: The particular challenges of monitoring and evaluating advocacy

  1. 1.
    Policy change can take a long time to achieve. How can we demonstrate that we’re making progress even if we haven’t got the policy change yet?
  2. 2.
    It’s hard to measure progress in advocacy because most of the outcomes are not very tangible (apart from policy change or a change in the law which may take a long time).
  3. 3.
    We can’t prove that any positive change that happens is the result of our advocacy because so many other factors and actors may have played a part
  4. 4.
    It’s hard to monitor the progress of our strategy when we’ve had to change it so many times and the situation is so complex.
Below we suggest some top tips for dealing with these four challenges.
IMGAGE DESCRIPTION: "The Great Advocacy Fog"Three sets of eyes can be seen in a mirror, everything else hidden by a dense fog. The three people say: "how do we know if we are actually making any progress?"; "How do we knoe if it was OUR advocacy that brought the change?"; "I think we've hit the Advocacy Fog!"

Challenge 1: How can we demonstrate that we’re making progress, even if we haven’t secured the policy change yet?

Top tip: Don’t just monitor policy outcomes
Point to the progress in achieving the interim outcomes you set in your advocacy strategy, such as:
  • Increase in public support for the change we seek A shift in public opinion
  • Increase in support for the change amongst politicians Greater recognition of civil society’s role
  • National media coverage of the issue
  • Creation of a new coalition to advocate for the change
  • Increase in the capacity of civil society organisations to advocate on this issue
  • A change in behaviour within the target group A shift in power

Challenge 2: It’s hard to measure progress in advocacy because the outcomes are not very tangible

Top tip: Evidence can always be found to demonstrate important advocacy outcomes – even if they don’t seem very tangible. Here are some examples:
Typical advocacy outcomes you might seek
Evidence – ie.. indicators – of these outcomes
A shift in public opinion
Positive articles in mainstream media; mentions of the issue on social media; opinion polls
Stronger relationships with policymakers
Invitations to share platforms with policymakers; policymakers agree to meet with us; requests for our information from policymakers
The issue is on the political agenda
Government invites consultation on the issue (eg. through a green or white paper); increase in parliamentary discussions/questions; launch of inquiry on the issue by a parliamentary committee
Stronger civil society
Increase in funding for civil society orgs (CSOs); increase in number of active CSOs and coalitions; CSOs regularly quoted in media and social media
Civil society space has been strengthened
CSOs invited to meetings with government; less arrests or other interventions against freedom of speech; CSOs can speak out about the government’s failings without fear of reprisal

Challenge 3: We can’t prove that any positive change is the result of our advocacy

Top tip: Assess your contribution - don’t worry about attribution
You may never know whether an outcome was the result of your advocacy when so many other factors might have played a part (eg. policymakers’ own experience, a change in government, exposés by journalists, advocacy by other NGOs etc). It’s even harder to attribute change to your advocacy when so much policymaking happens behind closed doors.
Rather than trying to prove a direct causal link between your advocacy and the actions of powerful actors you sought to influence, think more about the contribution that your advocacy has made to a certain outcome – recognizing that other factors and actors may have played a role too.
  • Make a critical assessment of why and how far you feel you have contributed - based on the evidence you have collected and your monitoring. This will allow others to discuss, support or reject your findings as appropriate.
  • `Triangulate’ your own assessment by asking the same set of questions about your contribution to different stakeholders – officials, politicians, journalists, NGO allies, affected communities. Then look for an overlap in their views.
  • Retain and record all letters and statements from policymakers that acknowledge the difference your advocacy made.
  • Set up Google Alerts for online mentions of your organisation, your report, the main figure quoted in your research, etc

Challenge 4: It’s hard to monitor the progress of our strategy when we’ve had to change it so many times and when the situation is so complex

Top tips:
  • Constantly monitor the context and the outcomes of your advocacy
  • Record any major changes you need to make to the outcomes you are seeking or your approach and activities – as a result of your monitoring
  • Be flexible and adapt to a changing context!
  • Build data collection systems into your team and daily routines, eg. template forms to fill in after every meeting with a policymaker or other powerful actor to track what happened in the meeting; internal system for recording all engagement with the individual powerful actors you seek to influence
  • Discuss the evidence you collect in your regular team or coalition meetings Create an internal folder in your system in which you and your team upload any positive quotes or feedback from policymakers about your contribution Conduct short After-Activity reviews with your team or coalition straight after a major advocacy event (eg. roundtable with policymakers or religious leaders, launch of a new report, public campaign stunt etc) while things are still fresh in people’s minds, to help unpick the complexities – including all the factors and actors behind the outcomes (both positive and negative) and your contribution to these