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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“The path to victory is never straight so you have to identify and celebrate intermediate successes. We need to win a lot of small prizes along the way, to keep staff motivated, to show that we're actually making a difference.”
— Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America

EXAMPLES

The Better Safer World campaign demonstrated that people can be mobilized around international poverty reduction and that regular folks in “middle America” understand that a better world is one that is safer for everyone. Read more »

Tracking Victories and Defeats

The importance of investing in Continuous Progress as your evaluation approach to policy advocacy will become tangible once your grantees begin tracking and learning from their victories and defeats. As the grantmaker, you will learn as well, and will be able to apply what you learn when making future grants. But the critical point here is that grantmakers need to promote a culture of learning and demonstrate that they are genuinely interested in hearing about what worked and what didn't. Shared learning can improve grantees' and grantmakers' capacity; strengthen the community of advocates around your particular issue; and yes, help grantmakers make more informed and effective investment decisions. If grantees perceive that grantmakers valued and encourage learning, they will be much more likely to share both victories and defeats.

Here's how: During the advocacy grant, the evaluation process will be feeding information back to the grantee for constant improvement and tweaking. Using the indicators embedded in the evaluation plan and theory of change helps the grantee stay on course to meet benchmarks and achieve long-term policy change. Reviewing this journey will help you learn from the grantee's performance and fund best practices for potential grantees traveling down a similar path.

Remember, evaluation is about constant improvement. Encouraging your grantee to track both victories and defeats will enlighten this emerging advocacy field and build capacity. Ask your grantee to keep track of what benchmarks were achieved— or not achieved— and to record how and why this occurred.

When examining a benchmark, ask the grantee to consider:

  • Adjustments made to the theory of change
  • External phenomena beyond grantee control which influenced the situation
  • The role of luck
  • Some of the indicators that guided the grantee along the way

From this process, you can begin to understand some best practices, lessons learned and the black holes of policy advocacy which should be avoided in the future. Results from these types of evaluations could be used for workshops and conferences to bring together potential grantees to learn from one another about how to conduct advocacy effectively in your sector. Case studies could be presented that highlight both successes and defeats. They will also be helpful in developing the summative evaluation.

Remember: we're all learning as they go — there is no silver bullet but there are best practices that will allow the capacity for effective advocacy to improve.


TIPS

  • Make sure that tracking victories and defeats does not feel like useless paperwork for grantees; gathering the results of your advocacy efforts should feel and be useful to various groups of stakeholders.
  • Tracking victories and defeats early on in an advocacy grant will help you develop best practices to apply to latter stages of this advocacy activity and future grant making.