Advocacy evaluation


Our advocacy evaluation action research project seeks to support progressive social change organisations to evaluate the impacts and outcomes of their efforts.

Compared to other sectors and types of organisation, civil society groups working toward social and environmental justice generally commit fewer resources to evaluating their programs and campaigns. Our research and networking suggests that few progressive NGOs apply evaluation frameworks. Why? Maybe it’s because of lack of time, limited access to appropriate tools and frameworks, or the complex nature of the policy-making process. Even when policies change for the better, it’s often hard to know just what made the change.

In recent times a small but growing number of organisations, especially philanthropic bodies that fund advocacy work, have begun to explore frameworks for evaluating advocacy. So we kicked off an action research project to:

  • Collect and synthesise resources and literature on campaign evaluation, including case studies
  • Identify evaluation frameworks that are simple, powerful and road-tested
  • Trial and revise resources
  • Develop and share a suite of resources for participatory workshops that support activists to evaluate their own campaigns

Project updates

The project kicked off in mid-2007. Two members of our team began to collect, appraise and apply various campaign evaluation tools. Justin completed a review of literature on advocacy evaluation which was shared internationally You’ll find it among resources tagged ‘advocacy evaluation’ in our Campaigners’ Toolkit.]

We helped develop an evaluation framework for Climate Camp 2008. The online questionnaire was completed by 90 activists who’d taken part in the week-long protest camp. The evaluation showed up some important outcomes including a strong match between hoped-for and actual outcomes, a significant increase in the likelihood that participants would engage in further direct action as a result of their experiences in Newcastle and very strong support for another national climate change convergence.

More recently, we’ve trialled a range of evaluation tools with campaigning organisations. Several NGOs have engaged tCA to either lead post-campaign evaluations or facilitate pre-campaign workshops to develop evaluation frameworks.

If your organisation is developing and applying evaluation tools in your campaigns, we’d love to hear from you.

Online evaluation resources

Since 2007, we’ve been gathering links on advocacy evaluation to tools, case studies and resources. Select the ‘advocacy evaluation’ tag in our Toolkit search for more than 50 resources. Here are 10 of our favourites.

Advocacy evaluation: Review and opportunities

Justin Whelan reviews the emerging literature in this field, noting the points of convergence and divergence and suggesting some limitations of the frameworks and opportunities for effective evaluation that meets the needs of interest groups. Tags: advocacy evaluation, research,

Assessing advocacy

Justin Whelan (2006). Extracts from ‘Work Justice’, a case study of the campaign by Uniting Justice to influence Industrial Relations legislation in Australia. Tags: advocacy evaluation, case study,

Benchmarking evaluation in foundations: Do we know what we are doing?

Much like the discipline of evaluation itself, the evaluation function in philanthropy with staff assigned to evaluation-related responsibilities is a fairly recent phenomenon… Tags: advocacy evaluation, philanthropy,

Resources for evaluating community organising

Resources for Evaluating Community Organizing (RECO) is a compendium of resources related to evaluating community organizing. RECO is designed to help organizers, funders, and evaluators quickly and easily find the resources to help them learn what is working and what is not. RECO connects you with case studies, tools and methodologies, and theoretical approaches to evaluation Tags: advocacy evaluation, community organising, favourite, philanthropy,

Transactions, transformations, translations: Metrics that matter for building, scaling and funding social movements

A critical challenge for practitioners and foundations is how to develop linkages across sectors in a way that broadens and deepens the overall impact and support base for community wealth-building strategies. Ideally, an integrated approach would encompass mutually reinforcing government, community, and individual wealth-building efforts. It might include direct government asset-based efforts that promote local […] Tags: advocacy evaluation, favourite, movement building, philanthropy,

Pathways for change: 10 theories to inform advocacy and policy change

Sarah Stachowiak’s report lays out 10 theories grounded in diverse disciplines and worldviews that have relevance to the world of advocacy and policy change. These theories can help to untangle beliefs and assumptions about the inner workings of the policy making process and identify causal connections supported by research to explain how and why a change may […] Tags: advocacy evaluation, favourite, philanthropy, theory of change,

The Evaluation Exchange

This 32-page issue of The Evaluation Exchange describes new developments in evaluating advocacy and policy change efforts that attempt to inform or influence public policy. Tags: advocacy evaluation, favourite,

No Royal Road: Finding and Following the Natural Pathways in Advocacy Evaluation

As efforts at driving change become more diffuse, involve more actors, and have more transformational goals, we need a radically different approach to thinking about and assessing what effective advocacy looks like. Clear answers and simple tools are appealing, but they ultimately won’t result in good representations of reality or provide the knowledge advocates need. […] Tags: advocacy evaluation,

Measuring political will

A win often means getting the support of elected officials, and the Policymaker Rating method was designed to measure just that. This brief shares scenarios where this method was applied and modified to show what has worked (and what utterly failed). This resource is part of the excellent ORS | Impact collection. Strongly recommended! Tags: advocacy evaluation, strategy,

Evaluating social movement power

Though social movements are not new, there is considerable confusion differentiating social movements from other types of social change and a lack of literacy about how movements build power to transform the status quo. Existing evaluation approaches provide critical guidance for understanding the health and capacity of social movements but don’t go far enough in […] Tags: advocacy evaluation, political analysis, research, social movements,