APC TIG Week: Learning and evolving in advocacy and campaign evaluation by Rhonda Schlangen and Jim Coe

Hello! We are Rhonda Schlangen and Jim Coe, evaluation consultants who specialize in advocacy and campaigns. We are happy to kick off this week of AEA365 with interesting posts from members of the Advocacy and Policy Change Evaluation TIG.

Over the last two decades there has been a seismic shift in thinking about evaluating advocacy. Evaluators have generated a plethora of resources and ideas that are helping introduce more structured and systematized advocacy planning, monitoring, evaluation, and learning.

Lessons Learned: As evaluators, we need to be continually evolving and we think the next big challenge is to navigate the tension between wanting clear answers and the uncertainties and messiness inherent in social and political change.

Following are just three of many sticky advocacy evaluation issues, how evaluators are addressing them, and ideas about where we go from here:

Essentially, these developments boil down to accommodating the unpredictability of change and the uncertainties of measurement, thinking probabilistically, and opening up room to explore doubt rather than looking for definitive answers—all to better fit with what we know about how change happens.

Hot Tip: Some questions evaluators can consider are:

  • How can we better design MEL that even more explicitly accommodates the unpredictability and uncertainty of advocacy?
  • What are effective ways to incorporate and convey that judgments reached may have a very strong basis or may be more speculative, as advocacy evaluation is seldom absolutely conclusive?
  • How can we maximize space for generating discussion among advocates and other users of evaluation about conclusions and their implications?

Hot Tip:  Get involved in advocacy. First hand experience, like participating in a campaign in your own community, can be a helpful reality check for evaluators. Ask yourself: How well do the approaches and tools I use as an evaluator apply to that real life situation?


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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