Planning and Review of Advocacy Activities
The planning and review of advocacy can be more difficult than for other program work or capacity development work.
- Sometimes the results of advocacy work are intangible
- Often the causes of a policy changes are unclear, and come from many influences
- The timescales are often lengthy before any change is seen
- When you work in a coalition or alliance there is the difficulty of attributing complex social and political changes to the advocacy work of one organization (in a rich and complex policy environment).
- Your advocacy may lead to positive spin-offs, which you hadn’t intended. These may be in terms of animal welfare awareness and empowerment of your supporters, capacity-building, and a higher overall profile for the organization
Lessons can only be learned and applied, therefore, if your work is reported and analyzed, and if these analyzes are used to inform decisions. Honesty and transparency are essential in our analysis of progress. Do not attempt to hide errors, because this is how we learn.
Effective monitoring always begins with your action plan as a reference point, and measures against this. It helps to develop a comprehensive action plan, using a tool such as a Log Frame (or another similar project management framework), which clearly sets out activities (with roles and responsibilities and the timeframe) and outcomes. Inputs also need to be established and monitored. The better-developed your action plan, the more effective the monitoring.
Tool 27. Log Frame
However, the Log Frame can be amended to suit your own purposes. The best logframes are built upon clear stakeholder involvement; and a participatory team approach is critical in developing a viable program proposal (and, by extension, a robust Log Frame). The Log Frame in the tools requires indicators against both objectives and outcomes, but you may decide that this is too much for your organization’s advocacy project.
Advocacy monitoring should focus on the tracking of: inputs, activities and outcomes. For advocacy work, outcomes can be changes in: policy, implementation and capacity. However, they are more frequently changes in knowledge, awareness, opinions, and/or behavior.
Thus, when you are putting your advocacy plan into practice, you should be monitoring the effect that your activities are having on policy-makers, and other audiences.
You also need to track new information about your issue and/or target that may affect your advocacy strategy and plan.
Monitoring involves setting up and then using a system of information. This details how information should be collected, collated, and made available to the people who need it at the right time for them to analyze it and take decisions. The basics are about keeping a record of your activities against plan in a way that is clear, simple and useable. This will often involve recording different information for each important step of the process using methods such as: record keeping, reporting, tracking, periodic inspections, surveys (opinion, service feedback etc.) etc.
Evaluation analyzes the extent to which your advocacy initiative has achieved its objectives, and explores the reasons behind success or failure (and the cost of this, in terms of inputs).
Evaluation should always be carried out on completion of advocacy activities. It should also be carried out periodically on longer-duration activities. Bringing about policy change is frequently a time-consuming activity, meaning that it can be beneficial to break down policy change objectives into sub-objectives, in order to make these more manageable and measurable. Certainly for longer-term objectives, such as the introduction of new legislation, sub-objectives and periodic evaluation will be helpful.
As with monitoring, evaluation should take your comprehensive action plan (such as your Log Frame) as a reference point. This means that when the indicators are developed for objectives and outcomes, they should be carefully framed to ensure that they meet the needs of evaluation. There is more on ways of doing this below.
It is important not to treat evaluation as a negative assessment, but as an opportunity to review the advocacy initiative in order to use the learning to help with the development of success and excellence. The process should be open and non-critical, and as participatory as possible (in terms of both inclusivity and methods used) in order to maximize learning.
Evaluation is also an opportunity to consider and assess and any relevant changes in the external or policy environment.
If the advocacy project you are evaluating is particularly important to your office, or particularly contentious, you may consider using an outside consultant with M&E expertise to perform the evaluation. This enables you to obtain objective and relevant feedback. It is particularly useful to include independent M&E advice at the project design stage when you are seeking significant donor funding.