APC TIG Week: Applying APC Evaluation Practice to Theory by Annette Gardner and Claire Brindis

We are Annette Gardner and Claire Brindis, both at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco and authors of the recent book, Advocacy and Policy Change Evaluation: Theory and Practice.

There is a growing body of resources on linking theory to advocacy and policy change evaluation practice. However, APC evaluators are surfacing knowledge that can contribute to the scholarship on public policy and influence.  Based on our review of political science and public policy arenas, we would like to nudge the conversation to the next level, suggesting some topics where APC evaluators can ‘give back’ to the scholarship.

New Voices and Forms of Participation: APC evaluators have not shied away from identifying new voices or recognizing existing voices whose influence has gone unnoticed, such as ‘bellwethers.’ Moreover, advocates are leveraging new forms of communication, such as text messaging.  Evaluators are on the front lines and are learning about new advocacy strategies and tactics in real time.

Assessing Advocacy Effectiveness: Evaluators can provide information on advocacy tactics and their influence, such as findings from policymaker surveys that inquire about perceptions of specific advocacy tactics. Second, a perennial research question on influence is: Is it ‘Who you know’ or ‘What you know’? Or both? Given their vantage point, evaluators can characterize the roles and relationships of advocates and decision-makers who work together to craft and/or implement policy.

Other areas of inquiry include:

  • Taking the Policy Stage Model to the Next Level: Evaluators are documenting whether specific tactics wax and wane during the policy cycle. Given limited resources, is it better to engage in targeted advocacy during one stage of the policymaking process?  Evaluators are focusing on a specific stage and can determine its relative importance to other stages.
  • Advancing Contextual Analysis: Evaluators are well positioned to characterize complicated policy arenas. Focusing on contextual factors using interviews and observations can advance understanding why specific advocacy tactics are/aren’t successful.
  • Measuring Civil Society and Civic Renewal: Evaluators that focus on grassroots, community-based advocacy campaigns have a front-row seat to the effectiveness and impacts of these initiatives and their potential for strengthening civil society.

APC evaluators are well positioned to contribute to the knowledge base of successful and not so successful forms of influence and their outcomes.  Publications such as the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Policy Studies Journal, and Public Policy and Administration are waiting to hear from you!

Rad Resources: ORS Impact’s 2016 paper, Beyond the Win: Pathways for Policy Implementation describes linking designs and theories of change to scholarship on policy change. For a refresher on the mechanics of public policy and politics, check out Michael Kraft and Scott Furlong’s Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating APC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Advocacy and Policy Change Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AP TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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