My name is Julia Coffman, and I am director of the Center for Evaluation Innovation, where we are building the field of evaluation in areas that are challenging to assess, including advocacy and policy change.
These are complex political times. Advocates are facing new challenges as they grapple with unpredictable developments that create political dysfunction and lessen the impact of once-effective tactics.
This uncertainty makes advocacy evaluation more important than ever. Advocates navigating uncharted waters need reliable feedback that helps them to learn and adjust as they go.
We advocacy evaluators need to be up to the task.
Hot Tip: Get ready to evaluate new strategies and tactics.
Many advocacy evaluation efforts to date have focused on strategies (often legislative) using common tactics that assume a combination of persuasive research, public will-building, and bipartisan champion building will be enough to effect change.
Today the motivations of elected officials may have nothing to do with the rational selection of evidence-based policies that hold the most promise for constituents. Advocacy is changing to accommodate these new realities.
Rad Resources: The Atlas Learning Project offers resources on approaches that may be less common to advocates and their evaluators, but are expected to get more play in the current environment.
- 501(c)(4) organizations—Realize the role of these important actors in the political mix.
- Legal advocacy and strategic litigation—See how the courts offer a critical path for change.
- Policy implementation advocacy—Learn how the theory and tactics are different than for policy change advocacy.
- Collaborative multi-party campaigns—Understand the sticking points behind efforts to join forces over long policy battles.
- Advocacy capacity building during campaign implementation—Gain new thinking about supporting advocacy over the long haul.
Hot Tip: Bone up on your political science.
Many of us studied political science in college, but have not kept up with it since. Political science is a discipline in which the answers regularly change to critical questions about how policy change happens or what motivates elected officials.
Learning the science behind what is happening in politics and why is critical as we pressure test advocacy theories of change and help advocates to select and measure outcomes that matter.
Rad Resources: Connect to the latest political science without going back to the classroom.
The Monkey Cage is a blog in The Washington Post that connects political scientists and their research to current events, helping to make sense of the “circus that is politics.”
Philanthropy in a Time of Polarization is an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review that explains why policy strategies used historically are no longer effective during this time of political polarization and hyper-partisanship.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.