How to Design Your M&E System
Each advocacy program is different, with its own specific context, objectives and methodology. So it is necessary to develop your own, locally appropriate and useful system of M&E for these – whilst still following general M&E guidance. This requires careful planning.
Before thinking about designing and setting up a monitoring system it is important to be clear about what changes you are trying to achieve and how you believe social change can be brought about in your context, and how it can be sustained – see Module 1.
Once you have identified the change you want to see, and how this can be brought about (your ‘Theory of Change’), then the sort of information that you need to monitor and evaluate (and at what points these M&E activities will occur) will become more evident. You need to remind yourself that what you are trying to do is to monitor whether the progress you want is being achieved and – then finally, in your evaluation, to show how that success was achieved (or why it did not happen as planned).
This should be done at the action planning stage, and the results built into your plan. You need to establish prior to implementation what information is necessary for tracking progress, and how you will obtain this information. If you use a Log Frame, the indicators you develop for your objectives/outcomes should be designed in a way that can measure whether activities have achieved the desired results. You will also need to develop some baseline information, against which your indicators will be assessed.
When developing indicators, it is often stressed that your objectives should be ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). But in the case of advocacy work, you will usually need to include some more subjective measures – and a mixture of qualitative and quantitative indicators in order to capture the real value of your work.
Ensure that you develop indicators that assess your progress as well as outcomes. Establish clear milestones. For example, possible indicators could be: active and constructive engagement in a policy or advocacy network; raised policy and implementation questions at key partner meetings; raised awareness about your issue amongst key stakeholders, raised the issue in partnership or coalition/alliance discussions; and included an assessment of the policy environment and key players in your strategy review etc. Whilst effective policy change appears to be a useful success criterion at face value, the full story is somewhat more complex.
Think carefully about how activities should feed into outcomes and the achievement of objectives when establishing indicators. Indicators should be linked in to roles and responsibilities, and planned timeframes, where possible.
Tool 41. Advocacy Outcomes and Achievements
Tool 42. Advocacy Evaluation Case Study
If you are in receipt of external funding for the advocacy activities, you may be required to report in a specific way to the donor providing the funds. This is often a problem because the policy change you are working for may come well after the period of funding. If you have an understanding donor it is worth asking for them to fund a separate review or evaluation a year after the project finished, to assess if the change has been made and if progress is sustained.
The following tool for evaluating advocacy has been developed specifically for funders, and gives a helpful insight into the funders’ perspective:
Tool 43. Tips for Evaluating Advocacy
Animal welfare organizations should always strive to avoid over-stating our role, influence and contribution to change. Social change is usually due to a number of factors and influences. We should only attribute a change to our work if we are certain that we did play a meaningful role, or use proxy indicators if we feel that we made a real contribution to change.
Proxy indicators are indicators that we believe are plausible indicators of outcomes or progress towards an outcome. They can be helpful in advocacy work because of the difficulty of attributing results, and the often intangible outcomes. In particular, they can be a legitimate way to measure an individual organization’s roles in coalition work.
An animal welfare organization is involved with a number of partners in a coalition (or alliance) that has been working on the lack of implementation of the OIE animal welfare standards in their country. They have undertaken a number of awareness-raising activities. The government (the key target) has suddenly introduced a new strategy for capacity building and monitoring for official enforcement activities. The organization’s review shows that a) they engaged in a number of activities focused on achieving this change, through the coalition/alliance and b) it has achieved the change they wanted as an outcome. Although it is impossible to directly attribute the government’s revised strategy to the organization’s work – it is a) plausible to believe there is a relationship between the advocacy activities and the change – attribute the change to the objective and b) plausible to believe that their involvement in the coalition/alliance was a contributor to the coalition/alliance’s success.
Here we could use the number of activities undertaken by the coalition/alliance (including the organization) as the proxy indicator.