APC TIG Week: Jared Raynor on Reflections on 10 Years of the Advocacy and Policy Change TIG

Welcome to the Advocacy and Policy Change (APC) TIG week on AEA365!  I’m Jared Raynor, Director of Evaluation at TCC Group and co-chair of the TIG.  Our TIG is celebrating our 10-year anniversary at this fall’s AEA conference.  This week’s blog posts share some of the great insights gained regarding evaluation’s role in advocacy work around the world.

In preparation for the TIG week, I asked for some reflections from some people who were with me when the TIG formed.  Tom Kelly’s had a striking insight: “We’d always said we are not inventing any new tools of evaluation but were looking for ways that evaluation can be applied in complex, rapidly changing policy advocacy environments—although look at the new tools that have come along.”  To start the APC week, I wanted to reflect on a few of the amazing developments in our field.

Rad Resource: Over the course of the TIG’s development we’ve been asked on occasion how to share resources within the AEA community.  On each occasion, we have opted to promote existing aggregators of information.  Innovation Network’s Point K Learning Center has consistently gathered resources from the field and The Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI) has supported the development of new material. Both make the information freely available.

Rad Resource: One of the early pieces of writing on advocacy evaluation, The Challenge of Assessing Policy and Advocacy Activities, remains a great starting place.  The authors identify seven key challenges faced by foundations in advocacy evaluation, including complexity, role of external forces, timeframe, shifting strategies and milestones and attribution.  More recently, the Overseas Development Institute did a comprehensive review of Monitoring and Evaluation of Policy Influence and Advocacy that looked at trends, approaches, frameworks and methods for evaluating advocacy.  And, coming out later this year is the first book on advocacy evaluation by Annette Gardner!

Lessons Learned: In late 2015, the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program and CEI convened a small group of advocacy evaluators to review the state of the field. I want to share three things that struck me from that conversation.  First, advocacy evaluators need to become more savvy at eliciting theories of change alongside theories of action.  We are fairly adept at the latter and frequently let the former slide as too abstract.  Second, we should continue to push ourselves to incorporate counterfactual thinking into evaluations.  Third, we should constantly consider the political implications of our work—how it is positioned, whose voice is prioritized, and what bias we bring to the advocacy work.

We have come a long way and I look forward to where we as a field go next!

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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