APC Week: David Devlin-Foltz on Advocacy and Policy Change as a Developing Evaluation Field

Greetings, aea365 fans: I am David Devlin-Foltz, director of the Aspen Institute’s Advocacy Planning and Evaluation Program and co-chair of the American Evaluation Association’s Advocacy and Policy Change Topical Interest Group (TIG). I’m kicking off a week of aea365 posts by members of our fast-growing TIG. Established in 2007, the APC TIG is already almost 800 strong.

As a relatively new TIG, we were grateful for the chance to introduce some of the current trends and concerns in this emergent field at AEA’s national conference and here on aea365.

We had a steady stream of panels and discussions at Evaluation 2011 in Anaheim. Many focused on advocacy evaluation as an example of developmental evaluation, adapting in response to changes in the campaigns we evaluate. Our sessions also demonstrated tools and approaches to reduce the level of uncertainty our clients feel about which advocacy interventions contributed to an outcome. Reduce – but not eliminate; we are evaluating complex social phenomenon that are not susceptible to neat controlled experiments. Lisa Molinaro from our Aspen APEP team demonstrated one tool that can help:

Hot Tip: Check out the second generation of Aspen’s Advocacy Progress Planner. The APP is an online tool for advocacy planning and evaluation. It helps evaluators and stakeholders to build a program planning model incorporating measurable benchmarks and periodic progress reviews.

We hope the TIG’s posts this week will give you a sense of how our norms and tools and practices are evolving in response to the challenges of advocacy evaluation. And we hope to continue the conversation through a new discussion list hosted on our TIG webpage.

Our writers during the week raise thoughtful questions about what we really know about advocacy evaluation and challenge us to address the many things that we don’t. The posts include:

  • Lessons that United Kingdom-based Annabel Jackson has learned from evaluating the work of effective “influencers”
  • Tips from Gabrielle Watson for using advocacy evaluation more effectively for internal strategic learning
  • Cautionary notes from Anna Williams about defining “policy wins” too loosely
  • A call from Tayo Fabusuyi for a community of practice to share lessons learned across our emergent field
  • A response from Ehren Reed of the Innovation Network to point us towards resources current and forthcoming

Hit tip: Please watch this space all week for more from the Advocacy and Policy Change TIG.

We’re celebrating Advocacy and Policy Change week with our colleagues in the APC Topical Interest Group. 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. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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