Bloggers Series: Robert Medina on So What? Your Weekly Guide to Advocacy With Impact

Hey there!  I’m Robert Medina, Program Manager for the Aspen Institute’s Advocacy Planning and Evaluation Program, a consulting group based in Washington, DC.

Rad Resource – So What? Your Weekly Guide to Advocacy with Impact: Most evaluators would agree that all data isn’t necessarily useful data.  To understand the distinction—between what’s valuable and what’s not, what should be measured and what doesn’t need to be—we like to ask that pesky question, “so what?”  It’s in that spirit that I blog each Friday.

Every week I write about research, news and cool resources related to advocacy and social change evaluation for an audience of advocates, evaluators, funders and others in the civil society sector.  Curious?  Sign up to receive new posts (just three short items) fresh off my keyboard.


Hot Tips – favorite posts: Here are five of my favorites.

  • Building capacity: We frequently tell advocates and funders that building advocacy capacity is just as important as hitting your policy targets.  Soon after the Komen debacle, Planned Parenthood showed exactly why this is the case.
  • Advocacy networks: In June 2012, Professor Jeremy Shiffman stopped by the Institute to talk about his work on global health policy networks.  I discuss how he evaluates the potential effectiveness of these advocacy networks based on issue characteristics, the socio-political environment and network-specific factors.
  • Telenovela advocacy: Ok, I admit it—I love telenovelas.  The more melodramatic, the better.  Fortunately, millions around the world agree with me.  So why not use this hugely popular medium to promote social issues, like education and HIV/AIDS prevention?  The Population Media Center and others conducting media-driven advocacy know it can work.
  • Social network analysis: In its October 2012 issue, the American Journal of Evaluation published a study looking at the functioning of advocacy coalitions using social network analysis.  Sure, this kind of quantitative methodology is far from a silver bullet.  However, it may help advocacy evaluators better understand the complexity of their target ecosystem.
  • A very bad mammoth: ‘Cause we all need a good laugh at least once a day.  And who doesn’t enjoy a fantastical story—with witches and a very bad mammoth—as told by a child…in French?  Much of advocacy is about weaving narratives, after all.

Lessons Learned – why I blog: “So What?” aims to contribute to the growing advocacy evaluation field.  While we do feature research findings, innovative methodologies, and evaluation theories every now and then, our blog is far from academic.  I regularly do deep dives into blogs, newspapers and program websites in search of nuggets of wisdom (sometimes mammoth-sized) that our readers may find useful, interesting, and funny too.

Lessons Learned – what I’ve learned: Be brief.  ‘Nuff said.

This winter, we’re continuing our series highlighting evaluators who blog. 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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