Welcome to aea365! Please take a moment to review our new community guidelines. Learn More.

APC TIG Week: Mitigating Advocacy Capacity Assessment Power Dynamics by Anne Gienapp and Sue Hoechstetter

Hi, we are Anne Gienapp, ORS Impact Director, and Sue Hoechstetter, Independent Advocacy Evaluation Specialist.  Along with evaluators Toyin Akpan, Carlisle Levine, Janet Sawaya, and Rhonda Schlangen, we came together at AEA last year to present on and discuss power dynamics that are often present and challenging when conducting advocacy capacity assessments. Our combined experiences with such assessments allowed us to identify multiple strategies for mitigating these power dynamics.

As advocacy continues to be a lever for advancing NGOs’ and funders’ policy objectives around the world, there is more interest in understanding organizations’ advocacy capacity in order to determine where and how capacity supports might be helpful.  Assessing, planning and monitoring how organizational advocacy capacity is strengthened as a result of targeted efforts and investments is now a part of the advocacy evaluation process for many.

For advocacy capacity assessment to be optimally useful, it is worth considering the varying degrees of power stakeholders bring to this process.  If not acknowledged and carefully addressed, power dynamics have the potential to depress the reliability and utility of advocacy capacity assessments. Those dynamics may include:

  • Grantees feeling vulnerable admitting weaknesses to a funder and being concerned that doing so would affect their future opportunities for funding;
  • Grantees feeling that assessments are being done to them rather than with them;
  • Funders conflating the purpose of capacity assessments that help inform beneficial capacity building responses with other types of assessment aimed at understanding the effectiveness of grantees’ advocacy efforts towards advancing policy related outcomes;
  • Evaluators being challenged by grantees’ and funders’ differing objectives for capacity assessments, particularly when the latter is financing the assessment process.

Lessons Learned:

We Identified the following strategies to address these power dynamics.

  • Promote common goals for the assessments among all stakeholders.
  • Build trust and be transparent with participating organizations regarding the purpose of the assessment, including when funder and grantee uses for the assessment may differ; assure grantees that the purpose is to offer information to their staff as well as their funders, and results will not be used against them If that is true.
  • Build grantee ownership in the assessment process. Clarifying the benefits to engaging in the assessment and including grantee input in the process were helpful
  • Offer grantees opportunities to review and own capacity assessment data. In one case, evaluators met directly with staff of organizations that participated in a capacity assessment and engaged them in interpretation and clarification of the findings before sharing with
  • Include a breadth of organizational staff in the capacity assessment process to bring different perspectives.
  • Provide technical support during the assessment.

Rad Resources:

AEA365 is hosting the APC (Advocacy and Policy Change) TIG week.

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.