Learning for change: the art of assessing the impact of advocacy work
The field of advocacy work is growing and changing rapidly and there is much to be done in exploring not only how best to carry out effective advocacy, but also how best to use the tools of monitoring and evaluation and impact assessment (M&E/IA) to promote learning, improve accountability, and assess the value of advocacy. This paper starts by exploring the complex and changing nature of advocacy work, arguing that standardised forms of M&E/IA are likely to be inappropriate–they will probably provide misleading information, and may create perverse incentives that undermine joint action. However, while there are obvious pitfalls, there are few ready-made answers. The authors suggest that NGOs involved in advocacy at all levels should identify essential elements of their work at the outset and ensure that they monitor and evaluate those areas that they deem most important. Indeed, evidence shows that short-term successes of advocacy work may often be won at the expense of longer-term aims– such as building capacity among partners and contributing to more fundamental change in the future. Throughout, the authors argue that an analysis of power and power structures should guide advocacy strategy and the ways in which advocacy can effectively be evaluated. A successful M&E/IA approach must be flexible enough not only to adapt to external events, but also to be a tool for reshaping the campaign. Those of us concerned with developing M&E/IA tools for effective and accountable advocacy need to start breaking new ground.
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