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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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"Funders need to think about how their funding can be leveraged in the long run. When foundations invest in leadership and communications training, this is long-term thinking in action. When they facilitate grantmakers and grantees getting together to discuss how they can collaborate better, we are looking at a different kind of investment in capacity building. More of it would be ideal.”
— Jim McDonald,
Bread for the World

EXAMPLES

The Evaluation Learning Group (ELG) was created in 2004 by the GII with support from the Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC). Its goal is to provide guidelines and tools to help foreign policy and global development advocacy initiatives improve their effectiveness. The ELG also seeks to help donors better assess proposals for policy advocacy efforts. These guides are a product of ELG's work, to spark the dialogue among advocates and between advocate and grantmakers, and to help GII learn about their applications in different settings.

Building Learning Organizations

Americans have been advocating changes in government policy, well, since 1776. But many organizations are new to policy advocacy. Others are facing new requirements to evaluate their advocacy—or to do so with more rigor. As a grantmaker, you can help validate the importance of building capacity through evaluation. We refer here to the capacity of the grantee, but also to that of the grantmaker, researchers, consultants and other organizations working in the field as a whole. The results of your evaluation investment should provide insight into how to be a better, stronger and smarter community of advocates on your issues. This means that everyone must be willing to learn from the evaluation.

There are a few guides available to help you improve advocacy capacity through grantmaking. Several key points deserve extra emphasis. First and foremost, evaluation should be done in a spirit that creates a learning environment; the evaluation process should be a forum for dialogue between not only the grantee and grantmaker, but other beneficiaries as well: researchers, consultants and other organizations. You can help set a tone in which all involved feel that they are working toward one common advocacy goal. In this environment, evaluation will be seen as a tool for continuous progress, improvement and effectiveness.

As a grantmaker, your vantage point enables you to build networks that otherwise might not exist, bringing together organizations and individuals from various spheres of knowledge. Evaluation will lend toward understanding what is known and what is not. It will help a community of learners recognize their strengths as well as areas where more expertise, skills and finesse are needed. This will allow you to make connections that are most relevant for your advocacy grantees. A vital part of this relationship building will be to bridge the worlds of theory and practice so that advocates can make informed choices and researchers can improve models based on actual advocacy activities and evaluation.

Building a true learning organization or sector will require that knowledge and lessons learned be disseminated and shared as widely as possible. As a grantmaker, you are well placed to think about how the evaluation results can be used to increase knowledge about future policy advocacy. Think about how hosting conferences and workshops or providing online resources and reports can build the community of learners around advocacy on your issues.


TIPS

  • To encourage continuous progress, grantmakers should help foster a learning culture among grantees, as well as a community of learning among grantees, grantmakers and others. Think about your investments in advocacy evaluation this way. A legacy of mutual learning across members of the community focusing on these goals may be one of the most significant contributions your funding makes to the field.
  • Build connections. As a grantmaker, you can leverage a variety of audiences working on different aspects of the central policy your grantees address. Assess strengths and weaknesses and try to connect people who can mutually benefit from that connection.