By Sarah Rose.

Monitoring and evaluating advocacy is hard work, and most advocacy professionals are all too familiar with issues of context and attribution. There are numerous publications, case studies and blogs highlighting these and other challenges.

But what are the practical solutions?

INTRAC recently ran a workshop for Christian Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, and Church of Sweden, for Southern Africa partners, aimed at exploring some of the practical solutions to the M&E of advocacy in their local contexts.

Participants agreed that if M&E was going to work they would need to design a structure that fitted within their organisational capacity and culture. So, rather than add more to already overburdened workloads, we looked at the ways in which we could build on active structures – cutting down on endless data collection which doesn’t contribute to learning and looking at how a few simple tools can be added into existing processes.

Next, we decided to do away with the language of systems, inputs and indicators and talk more simply about the change we want to see in the world and the signs that this change might be occurring.

We then re-examined the advocacy cycle and looked at the ways in which M&E could be incorporated into the objective-setting stage rather than being tacked on at the end, and mostly forgotten about.

Clearly defining the logic behind an advocacy strategy in the planning stage helps to effectively lay the groundwork for an M&E plan. We started with a clear and simple idea of the change we want to see and then layered outcomes, indicators and data collection over the top of it. Inspired by the LFA group’s Mini-Toolkit, we called this an ‘advocacy roadmap’.

Partners ended the workshop with a visual diagram of their roadmaps, and by the time everyone had identified targets, messages, activities and had got back round to M&E, all they had to do was consult the roadmap and the M&E system was nicely packaged up. It also steered people away from collecting endless lists of conferences attended, postcards written and various other activities which don’t really indicate whether change is occurring.

Most importantly we spent time looking at how we would use our monitoring to learn and change our strategies.

M&E of advocacy is one of the themes of INTRAC’s workshop on ‘Practical Responses to Current Monitoring and Evaluation Debates’ on 27 November 2013. Case studies and reports will be available after the workshop.