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Measuring the Impact of Advocacy

Geneva Global is committed to developing and refining grant management processes to help clients achieve the best outcomes.

Over the last three years, Geneva Global has supported Capital for Good with guidance and day-to-day management for the Capital for Good Advocacy Initiative—a $13 million program focused on identifying, vetting, and funding grants and contracts for innovative, high-impact advocacy projects that promote more and better use of resources, effective policies, and greater visibility of issues critical to the global health community.

Geneva Global has continually improved the ability of the Advocacy Initiative to develop and implement effective tools to monitor, evaluate, and learn at each stage of the project.

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a highly valued component of our work. It provides us with the framework to monitor the progress of a project, recalibrate project implementation efforts as appropriate, and measure the project’s impact.

Through our participation in industry conferences and conversations within our team of experts, our learnings have led to a shift in how we monitor and evaluate the Advocacy Initiative.

What We’ve Learned

A core learning was that identifying the spheres of control, influence, and environment helps grantees and grant managers target where the project is expected to have impact. From an Advocacy Initiative perspective, we define the three spheres as follows:

1. Sphere of Control

The Advocacy Initiative invests in a project, which is often one of many within the grantee’s advocacy portfolio. The project falls within the grantee’s sphere of control.

2. Sphere of Influence

Advocacy Initiative grantees seek to influence the social, political, and/or environmental context around an issue. This space is home to many other influencers–as a result, it changes frequently. No one influencer has control over the environment.

3. Sphere of Environment

This sphere represents societal level structures, which includes social, political, and environmental context. Over time, the contributions of many organizations prime the context such that change becomes possible at the population level.

Advocacy is a sector reliant on multiple organizations all working toward an overarching goal. With numerous actors working toward one goal, it can be challenging to attribute a specific outcome to one project or even one organization.

For this reason, it is advantageous for both grantees and grant managers to distinguish between the three spheres during project planning and M&E.

The distinction between the sphere of control, influence, and environment allows grantees and grant managers to set achievable project specific benchmarks. These project specific benchmarks fall solely within the sphere of the organization’s control, and tend to be most effective coupled with long-term goals that strive to alter the sphere of influence and environment.

M&E in an Advocacy Environment

M&E can be utilized as a very effective learning tool to inform decision-making processes and ultimately adapt advocacy projects to the ever-shifting environment. Based on examining our M&E approach, we have identified some factors that we believe can strengthen M&E as a learning tool from both a funder and grantee perspective.

Understanding the implementation environment is necessary when evaluating project impact

  • Distinguish between what a grantee can control and what they can only influence
  • Use the environment itself as a baseline for measuring a grantee’s influence
  • Measure the project’s contributions to the environment, as opposed to using attribution as an evaluation benchmark

Flexibility is essential during project planning & implementation

  • Develop goals intended to shift the environment; expecting changes in activities and tactics as the environment responds
  • Monitor and evaluate frequently, in real time; making course corrections based on learnings

Through this process, we’ve learned that it helps to be aware of our own assumptions of advocacy and M&E because they lay the foundation for the work we do. The more we test our assumptions, the more we develop an approach to advocacy M&E that is responsive to the environment we are working within.

One thing we value highly here at Geneva Global is collaboration and learning from each other’s experiences, so we urge you to continue this conversation about advocacy M&E in your networks. Consider reflecting on and discussing the following questions: What are your assumptions about M&E? What is the role of M&E in advocacy? What works? What doesn’t work? Why?

For additional resources on measuring advocacy, check out Stanford Social Innovation Review’s blog about effective strategies to measure advocacy as an implementing organization.