Monitoring and evaluating advocacy is essentially about assessing (periodically but regularly) whether you are seeing any changes in the ‘big picture’ that you’re trying to influence, what role you have played in these changes, and reassessing your targets and approaches in order to strengthen your contribution. Good monitoring and evaluation will allow you to build on past successes, and to identify risks early on in order to tackle them before they become obstacles.
There are several reasons why you should regularly monitor and evaluate your advocacy strategy:
- Reflect, learn from your experiences and keep revising the strategy to ensure that it is still appropriate to the circumstances.
- Check whether the objectives have been achieved or if they need to be adapted.
- Assess whether your advocacy approach is the best way of achieving the stated objectives – and change it if it is not!
- Track and take account of the changing context, especially the arguments and positions of decision-makers and your major opponents, and respond adequately by seizing opportunities and adapting strategies and action plans.
- Keep focused on the broader picture and long-term goals to ensure that you are working towards these, rather than just focusing on activities.
- Justify your activities – are they still the right ones to deliver the change you are seeking?
- Ensure that resources are used effectively by making the most effective use of time, effort and money.
- It can also help keep an eye on the funding space where you source your project resources. For example, is there a window of opportunity for a funding bid to support your work?
The first step is to develop your indicators and build them into your tax advocacy strategy from the start so that you are clear what evidence you will collect to demonstrate the progress you are making. In Step 3 we already stressed the importance of developing indicators alongside your objectives – and gave tips for doing so. Once you’ve got good indicators, you’re already halfway towards being able to monitor and evaluate your tax advocacy work.
The next step is to agree a process for how you will monitor and evaluate your progress against your indicators and the changing context. One suggestion is, once every 3–6 months, to hold a discussion with the core members of your advocacy project to:
- recall and record the key activities carried out during that period and refer back to your advocacy objectives. To what extent did these activities help you achieve your objectives? Do you need to adapt your strategy in the light of your reflections on the past 3–6 months?
- record any evidence (‘indicators’) of progress or results achieved as well. This could include press cuttings or other media on relevant issues and specifically on your organisation or network, feedback/responses from the policy-makers you are targeting or from other stakeholders, or any other evidence that demonstrates you are making progress in terms of policy change or engagement with the advocacy targets. Especially where signs of progress seem to be linked to your activities, consider how you could build on these or learn lessons for areas where there is less progress.
- reflect on key questions such as:
- How have your relationships with targets, allies and other actors developed – what seems promising?
- What has been particularly challenging?
- Have you seen any impact on your target audience(s)?
- Where do you need to invest more effort or change your approach?
The following tool provides some further suggestions about the kinds of questions you may want to ask yourself when monitoring progress against your indicators.
TOOLPossible indicators and key questions13
Possible indicators (depending on stage of policy cycle)
Key monitoring questions
Specific policy change
What has changed and why:
Are our strategies correct:
Remember: Managing and monitoring financial performance is an essential part of all monitoring activities. Thinking about the cost effectiveness of your work and sharing information about how much particular activities cost is a key part of learning and accountability.
Do not just monitor policy outcomes
Policy outcomes are not the only outcomes you should assess when monitoring and evaluating advocacy. Since policy change may take a long time to achieve – possibly several years – you need to identify other types of outcomes which may not take so long to achieve but may be just as important. Outcomes that can be monitored include, for example, the extent to which an advocacy initiative has built the capacity of the organisations involved in the advocacy initiative. Capacity built today could mean policy gains tomorrow. It could also include the extent to which your initiative has put an issue on the political agenda or has established your organisation or network as a key actor on an issue, even if no policy change has yet occurred.14
For some advocacy work, you may also want to undertake a more in-depth external evaluation, for example midway through an advocacy strategy, after a campaign action or at the end of a long, resource-intensive advocacy initiative. Using someone outside the team, organisation or network brings in fresh perspectives and can help challenge assumptions. External evaluators are also better placed to interview policy-makers in, for example, government or Parliament – that is, the targets of your advocacy – as to the impact of your advocacy on their thinking and policies. A policy-maker is more likely to speak honestly and candidly to a neutral and independent consultant than to those who are seeking to influence him/her.
Advocacy work is, of course, hard to evaluate objectively and, as has been discussed, it can be hard to differentiate the impact of your work from that of other organisations or political forces or processes that may have nothing to do with your efforts. However, an evaluation will help you probe more deeply into your assumptions about change, give stakeholders a say, help you assess the level of your contribution towards any impact, and help you to be more accountable. It should also be an opportunity to explore changes in the context and ask questions about direction and strategy. The insights and findings from these evaluations should inform learning throughout the organisation or network and help you to improve the quality of your advocacy work.