APC TIG Week: Evaluating in dynamic, uncertain political environments with Jewlya Lynn

Welcome to the Advocacy and Policy Change (APC) TIG week!  I’m Jewlya Lynn, the CEO at Spark Policy Institute. I am excited to kick-off the week in this year of political uncertainty and dynamic change. Our blog posts will explore timely, relevant insights regarding evaluation’s role in advocacy work around the world.

Change is inevitable whether your advocacy evaluation work is local, state, or federally focused or in the arts, education, justice, human services, equity, etc. Federal policies are changing the local and state funding available, as well as the constraints and opportunities for public and private institutions.

Advocates cannot ignore these changes.  Neither can evaluators.  But what is our role in this messy, dynamic environment?

HOT TIP: Kick into learning mode

“Accepting your limitations is every bit as important as embracing your strengths.” Dawn Jayne

Stay informed of what is going on in the political environment, learning with and from advocates. You may need to retool, acknowledging gaps in your skills as strategies shift. For example, your knowledge of evaluating inside game strategies may not translate fully to evaluating outside game strategies.

RAD RESOURCE: Point K Learning Center: You’ll find a wide range of top notch resources from leaders throughout the advocacy evaluation field.

HOT TIP: Help redefine success, but not too quickly

“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” William Pollard

Be prepared to help in the redefinition of what success looks like, even if figuring that out can’t happen quickly or easily. Help test underlying assumptions, engage in learning from experiments, and untangle the “why” behind small wins and losses. You can be a learning partner as advocates grapple with the new environment, helping to surface what wins might be possible, what success could look like.

HOT TIP: Resist the urge to be “right”

Advocacy partners are likely to have moments of confidence, moments of uncertainty, and a lot of moments in between. Be careful not to be too confident yourself – in your methods, the timing of when you want to deploy them, or even the accuracy of your findings. Flexibility isn’t just about being adaptive to the needs, it’s about acknowledging you don’t know how to best adapt and asking for help, from your advocacy partners and others.

RAD RESOURCE: APC TIG’s discussion board is a place to ask questions and seek new ideas

Major shifts in the political environment will happen and advocacy evaluators are lucky enough to be able to play an important learning role. But, it’s also just fine to put down the survey tool and pick up the protest sign, advocating for the change you want to see.

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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