Julia Coffman on Developing Effective Public Policy Strategies
My name is Julia Coffman and I am Director of the Center for Evaluation Innovation, a nonprofit effort that is building the field of evaluation in hard-to-measure areas such as advocacy, communications, and systems change. I am also a strategy and evaluation consultant to nonprofits and foundations, specializing in advocacy and policy change efforts.
Advocacy to advance public policy can be a powerful way to achieve large-scale and lasting results for individuals and communities. But sometimes a mismatch occurs between public policy goals and the strategies chosen to advance them. For example, we know awareness alone typically doesn’t drive policy change, but how many public awareness campaigns have been funded with the expectation that they alone will drive policy? Before specific tactics are chosen, several important decisions must be made.
Hot Tip: Follow these five steps when developing a public policy strategy:
- Choose the public policy goal: Select ambitious goals, but make sure they follow the SMART rules (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely).
- Understand the challenge: Assess where issues of interest currently stand in the policy process, along with why they are stuck.
- Identify which audiences can move the issue: Determine who to engage to address the barriers identified in the last step. Audiences may include the public (specific segments of it), policy influencers (politically-influential individuals or groups), or decision makers.
- Determine how far audiences must move: Assess where audiences currently are in terms of their engagement, as well as how far they need to move in order to achieve policy success. Audiences may be completely unaware that problems exist. Alternatively, they might be aware that problems exist, but do not see them as important enough to warrant action. Or, even if the willingness to act exists, audiences may not have the necessary skills to advocate.
- Establish what it will take to move audiences forward: Identify the strategies and activities that will move audiences and support effective change.
Rad Resource: This visual framework was developed to support steps 3, 4, and 5 above. The framework contains specific types of strategies and activities, organized according to where they fall on two strategic dimensions—the audience targeted (x-axis) and the outcomes desired for those audiences (y-axis). The framework forces the consideration of audiences and outcomes before tactics are chosen.
Rad Resource: Read more about this framework and its application in the 2009 article I wrote with Martha Campbell in The Foundation Review. http://www.innonet.org/client_docs/File/center_pubs/public_policy_grantmaking.pdf