I came to ICH with a great interest in health policy research, and was happy to know after starting that I would be working with a team (Carrie Fisher and Leah Zallman) to evaluate a program that supported health advocacy. According to Devlin-Foltz et al. (2012), “Advocacy evaluation emerged in response to these gaps between traditional evaluation approaches and the particular assessment strategies necessary for meaningfully evaluating policy change efforts” (pg. 582). What has been most interesting to me was recognizing the special challenges and consequent approaches that we need to take to evaluate advocacy.
For example, advocates are always faced with a changing political climate, and have to adapt their efforts to new laws and regulations, or budget cuts. Preparing a very structured logic model without room for changing goals may therefore be challenging to follow. Below are other things to consider when doing an advocacy evaluation.
The impacts of advocacy are often not short-term or linear, and therefore “success” can be tricky to define ahead of time. In this case we rely heavily on qualitative data to inform and measure progress. Stories matter and they are also a powerful resource for advocates in their organizing.
My favorite part about evaluating advocacy programs is seeing the work that advocates do on the ground to achieve real policy wins. I look forward to seeing more of them!
Devlin-Foltz, D., Fagen, M., Reed, E., Medina, R., & Neiger, B. (2012). Advocacy Evaluation: Challenges and Emerging Trends. Health Promotion Practice, 13(5), 581-586.