Monitoring and evaluation can be a complicated and time consuming process, but with ample time dedicated to planning, monitoring and evaluation, M&E plays a vital role in the success of your policy advocacy project.
Starting in the planning stage, spend 1-2 hours with your policy advocacy team conducting a SWOT Analysis. A SWOT Analysis consists of open conversation between the policy advocacy team to identify organizational Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Discussing strengths and weaknesses allows your team to conduct an honest internal evaluation. Whereas, analyzing opportunities and threats acts a mechanism to assess external factors impacting your project.
Using the information identified during the SWOT Analysis, your policy advocacy team is prepared to construct long-term advocacy goals. It is important to make sure that you have articulated clear and tangible policy advocacy goals. For example, “By law and in practice, refugees are able to choose where they live and achieve self-reliance while enjoying their other human rights.” Especially in policy advocacy, reaching goals often takes several years, or more.
As a starting point, it is wise not to construct more than three goals. Narrowing down your advocacy goals promotes organizational focus and results-based management. The goals you identify should not be tied to a single advocacy strategy or program. wA policy goal is best achieved through pursuing a combination of programmatic strategies working toward a common end.
Once your policy advocacy team has constructed an advocacy goal it is important to spend time creating SMART Objectives. SMART Objectives are measurable and can be used to monitor and evaluate progress towards goals. Constructing SMART Objectives for the first time can be confusing, so it is important to set aside enough time to concentrate on planning. SMART Objectives should be the most ambitious result that your organization, along with your partners, can materially affect within a given time-frame and set of resources for which it is willing to be held responsible.
- “Asylum Access’s draft language is incorporated into the Urban Refugee Policy that guarantees compulsory encampment is ended, self-settled refugees rights are protected, refugees have access to options for employment and self-reliance, and that refugees do not experience discrimination in accessing public services.”
- This SMART Objective is ambitious; specifically identifies target areas for the urban refugee policy advocacy project; achievable with the resources dedicated to this project; directly relevant to urban refugee policy reform; but does not have a time-bound restriction–SMART Objectives for policy advocacy may not always have a time frame because of their political volatility.
Construct Indicators & Monitor:
If your organization’s policy advocacy team constructed SMART Objectives that are easily measurable, then identifying indicators will measure and verify progress toward achieving that objective. Indicators are benchmarks that your organization’s policy advocacy team and other stakeholders can use to monitor whether pursuing the current strategy or objective is likely to succeed.
Examples of Indicators:
- Publish a story or op-ed on the urban refugee problem in a newspaper or other media outlet;
- Continue conducting field research on urban and self-settled refugees;
- Induce the government to defend its policies, which is potentially the beginning of a discussion about norms;
- Reduce the number of urban and self-settled refugees that cannot access the RSD process or other public services;
- Increase urban and self-settled refugees’ access to public services.
After your organization’s policy advocacy team has identified indicators that will measure and verify progress toward achieving your goals and objectives, the focus should shift to monitoring activities in pursuit of these goals and objectives. The monitoring phase helps to ensure that all the efforts put into strategic planning were not wasted.
The most important aspect of monitoring activities is establishing the capacity to identify new opportunities or deficiencies in your policy advocacy project and implement specifically tailored programmatic changes to reflect this. Policy advocacy monitoring involves collecting and analyzing information from all programs and initiatives–formal or informal. Common monitoring data collection mechanisms include meetings, minutes, telephone call records and project records.
When creating a monitoring system, consider:
- What do you need to learn about your advocacy?
- How will you find out what you need to know?
- How will monitoring and evaluation be used?
- When will the monitoring be carried out?
- What should be measured?
- Who will make it happen?
- What data collection tools should be used?
Additionally, monitoring your weekly advocacy activities can be as simple as taking a daily log of what was accomplished and compiling an ‘Activity List’ during a weekly policy advocacy team meeting.
Below is an example of a weekly policy advocacy ‘Activity List’ monitoring the activities completed:
During evaluation stakeholders assess the strengths and weaknesses of your policy advocacy project. The most important part of evaluation is making sure that actionable learning is happening at all levels of your organization. This means all stakeholder groups (staff, partners, allies, other NGOs, individuals participating in the advocacy programs, and individuals who stand to benefit from successful outcomes) should be represented for the evaluation session.
Prior to the evaluation session, all stakeholders should receive baseline questions (examples below) to prepare for the evaluation. These questions are designed to address a variety of issues facing your policy advocacy project, but must not limit stakeholders’ input. Encourage stakeholders to come prepared to offer any feedback related to the specific policy project under review.
Baseline questions to address during a policy advocacy evaluation session:
- To what extent were the original objectives achieved? Were the original objectives the right objectives to pursue?
- What impact did you have on individuals or the community (if at all)?
- Were resources efficiently allocated to policy advocacy programs and activities?
- What activities or programs contributed to policy advocacy success or failure?
- Which specific approaches worked? Which did not?
- What should have been done differently?
- What needs to be changed in the future as a result of this evaluation?
Attention to detail during the evaluation phase is extremely important to realizing organizational learning. While formalizing the evaluation process is absolutely necessary, it is not necessary to convene all the stakeholders for a separate evaluation meeting. Instead, the evaluation can be integrated into a larger ‘Quarterly Strategic Planning Meeting’. However, dedicating ample time (2-3 hours) to evaluation is still necessary in order to realize benefits to your policy advocacy project.
Evaluation thrives when stakeholders are engaged and share their diverse perspectives regarding the current advocacy strategy. Stakeholders tend to fully engage in the evaluation process when their participation is recognized as valuable beyond providing feedback to your policy advocacy team. Remind stakeholders that their contribution is crucial to the success of your policy project.
The following questions may lead to additional stakeholder contribution:
- How did you envision your role with this advocacy project at the time of its inception?
- Thus far, how would you characterize your role in this policy project?
- What contributions have you made to this policy project?
- Do you feel that your contributions have been valued by the policy advocacy team?
- In an ideal world, how do you envision your involvement in this policy project changing in the future?
- Additionally, it is important to ask stakeholders to rate their satisfaction with the direction of the policy project and allocate time specifically for open-ended conversation and critique.
While it may seem meaningless to the actual advocacy efforts, these stakeholder perspectives are representative of the wider, national attitudes toward your project. Implementing evaluation activities should be relatively easy if your organization has adhered to the other M&E mechanisms:
- Include 2-3 hours of evaluation at the end of the M&E cycle and before all quarterly strategic planning sessions.
- Send out questions to all stakeholders 2 weeks prior to the evaluation to enhance their engagement in the process.
- Record all statements and categorize them in a way that will allow your organization to see patterns–leading to organizational learning.
Stakeholder responses can then be used to formulate an updated strategic plan. Even if stakeholder responses are not directly implemented into the new plan, they should be viewed as valuable organizational learning experiences. No stakeholder’s contribution should be ignored or discounted because that stakeholder’s view is representative of a larger, analogous demographic. Use this new information and cycle back through the entire M&E process.
Finally, do not forget to take time to monitor and evaluate your evaluation mechanism. An exit survey or short conversation asking for future recommendations to improve the evaluation mechanism is an essential end to the evaluation.