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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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"A challenge we face is fragmentation: advocates don't speak with one voice, and we lose the message... We see problems of coordination among groups who advocate on the same topic; we need unity of message.”
— Anonymous Grantmaker

EXAMPLES

Organizations in the peace and security field collaborated to map out the different groups working on different issues and better understand the field as a whole. The end result was a tool and body of knowledge which helped members of the community mobilize citizens to action and create highly effective collaborative campaigns.

Advocacy Landscape: Mapping the Field

Foreign policy and global development advocacy: an evolving landscape
Congratulations! If you are on this page, chances are you are investing in advocacy, or maybe you are considering doing so. The good news for potential newcomers: there are plenty of opportunities for you to make a significant contribution to the public discourse on the issue(s) you support. The good news for those already in the field: there is more and more experience, and more allies, out there to help you do your own work better. The not-so-good news: the advocacy field is quite broad and complex, and your grantmaking portfolio will probably be a little messy. As you think about your grantmaking interest and potential areas of investment, we suggest that you identify the grantmaking goals that you could achieve in a reasonable time frame—goals that will contribute towards your desired longer-term policy change. In this process, you will also need to articulate how these advocacy goals fit in the landscape of current policy debates, and more broadly in the public discourse.

Mapping the landscape is an important process for you and for your current and future grantees. It will help you identify the major—and minor—players in the field; it will also equip you with the analytical competencies to connect your advocacy interests with the grantmaking, values and strategies your institution is already committed to. Going through this exercise will prepare you to stimulate a discussion with your fellow program officers, senior staff and with your board about criteria for your advocacy grantmaking strategy.

A good understanding of the policy landscape and its players will also help you identify markers, a term used by some advocacy organizations to refer to major policy benchmarks.

Policy communities: who does what?
Efforts to shape the domestic policy agenda range from cancer research and stop-smoking advocacy to "start-saving" programs for baby boomers and education initiatives for the urban poor. And there are plenty of policy challenges here at home that range across borders; halting global warming is one good example.

How can advocacy groups run an effective campaign against this complex and crowded backdrop? And how can you best determine your grantmaking strategy? We suggest taking a focused approach while constantly monitoring the foreign policy debate. The more you know about the field in which you want to operate and about current debates, the more effective you can be in identifying potential collaborators and grantees.

Advocacy in the United States vs. service-delivery in the field: A valid dichotomy?
You may need to educate your board about the value of advocacy grantmaking in general. Or, you may need to discuss the leverage that advocacy investments could provide for issues you already support. But how does advocacy compare to service-delivery grantmaking? Why spend money on TV ads in Iowa instead of using it to ensure that kids get a better education in south Chicago? What is the value of producing a research paper by a think tank in Washington, D.C. compared to equipping hospitals, feeding malnourished children and supporting immunization programs across the country? What policy victories from the recent past can be used to demonstrate the value of advocacy? These are important strategic questions, and your board deserves answers. The resource section below offers some useful links to reports that offer some insights and recent victories. In particular, see "Power in Policy: A Funder's Guide to Advocacy and Civic Participation" for a detailed treatment of why funders should try to shape public policy.

You also need to prepare your board for the somewhat uncertain nature of advocacy. Policy makers operate in a constantly moving environment, and you and your grantees need to be ready for inconsistency. For example, shortly after the 9-11 Commission released its report, the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill shifted the focus of the debate from military measures abroad to homeland security measures. Were public health advocacy organizations prepared to contribute to a new debate about health infrastructure? Were they able to assess and adjust their advocacy goals and messages accordingly? It is critical that you and your grantees build your organizational competencies to monitor these changes and react to them. To invest in advocacy you need, in short, vigilance and agility.


TIPS

  • Read policy blogs and other resources to stay up to date with the foreign policy debate.
  • Learn about the existing coalitions and networks working on your policy area of interest; you can learn and share important information with other organizations. Most importantly, you could find some grantmaking opportunities there.
  • Attend in-person and online events that relate to your area of interest
  • Sign-up for news alerts using key words related to your issue: public health, rural education, community development, or HIV/AIDS, for example.