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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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Glossary and Definitions

Terms and Concepts from Continuous Progress

Throughout the Continuous Progress guides, unique terms and concepts are employed to better explain evaluating advocacy.

Organizations, coalitions or individuals working in foreign policy advocacy whose efforts can complement or enhance your ability to advocate in isolation. Allies can provide substantive, thematic or a skill-based advocacy expertise. Certain media sources, depending on the type of coverage given to your issue, can also be considered an advocacy ally.
Baseline Media Measure
An initial assessment of how the media covers a topic prior to the start of an advocacy effort. The baseline measure can be established by assessing which news sources—if any—already cover the advocacy issue, the amount and type of coverage received, and the frames used to describe the issue. If your advocacy seeks to influence media coverage, the result of a baseline measure is the point by which you can begin to track incremental progress.
Predetermined milestones used as "check-in" points to monitor progress toward achieving a big advocacy goal. Benchmarks serve as a way to monitor incremental progress in advocacy.
The combination of the words “Web log,” is part journal and part online message board featuring posts similar to that of a diary. The “blogger,” or person writing the blog, posts short, typically informal entries, to which readers can respond and comment.
Although the term "buzzword” usually refers to newly minted concepts, we are borrowing it to apply to innovative advocacy messages. If your campaign “ask” can be summarized by simple, catchy and memorable words, you could be looking at a possible buzzword. You and everybody on your coalition would need to repeat these words as often as possible throughout all of your messages: public speeches, Web site, press releases, letters to the editor, interviews with the media, etc. An example of a successful buzzword was President Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' initiative. He repeated it on every single occasion he could. The simplicity of the words, the repetition of its use and the pervasiveness of the President's image in the media helped the public memorize and recognize the concept.
Coalition Capacity Benchmarks
A set of incremental steps that a coalition should pass through as it evolves throughout an advocacy initiative. Coalition capacity benchmarks are developed by looking at the coalition's starting point and comparing it to the coalition's optimal level of functionality and efficiency. Taking this start point and end goal for building coalition capacity, coalition capacity benchmarks show incremental steps that will indicate the coalition's progress over time.
Content Analysis
A standard research technique frequently used in social sciences to assess content in print, Web, TV, radio, books and other communications. Content analysis can be used for many purposes. For instance, researchers could systematically review news articles, speeches and other communications referring to your advocacy issue looking for certain key words, messages, tone and other indicators to help assess how the issue is currently framed by the media, by policy makers and even by the public. Performing content analyses before and after advocacy activities can provide useful data about the impact of efforts to alter the framing of an issue.
Designation Model
An approach to staffing evaluation where the organization or coalition designates specific staff members who will dedicate all or part of their efforts to evaluation. They are responsible for evaluation planning, data collection, monitoring, analyzing and reporting.
Dominant Frames
In general, “frames” are ways of viewing an issue. They may help define how the audience understands what is at stake and what solutions might make sense. People often have more than one frame available to them; some frames are more pervasive than others. Advocates need to identify the dominant frame audiences use to view a certain issue, and choose messages that reinforce frames through which their advocacy solutions are visible. For example, evoking the “global interconnectedness frame” makes it more likely that audiences will see the value of addressing the root causes of migration from Mexico or Central America to the United States rather than viewing immigration simply as a U.S. law enforcement problem.
Evaluation Plan
A plan of action for evaluating advocacy activities, typically before they begin. An evaluation plan, should include an advocacy goal, a detailed theory of change, benchmarks and indicators for capacity-building and advocacy activities, as well as a clearly defined human resources model to execute the evaluation activities while the initiative is taking place. Evaluation plans are most effective when they are complemented by an ongoing dialogue between the grantmaker and grantee.
External Events
Unanticipated events beyond the control of the advocates or grantmakers. External or unplanned events can have a positive or negative impact on advocacy initiatives and may require that the advocacy plan and theory of change be adjusted to account for them. Some foreign policy advocacy campaigns have greatly benefited from the “luck factor” when unplanned events work in their favor; others have had to reconsider the entire underlying theory of change because of unfavorable external events.
External Model
An evaluation model that “outsources” advocacy evaluation to consultants or another external entity; very little evaluation is done by advocates implementing the daily advocacy activities.
Formative Evaluation
Formative evaluation gives feedback to advocates on current activities so that advocates can adjust strategies and improve efforts midstream, as opposed to providing feedback at the conclusion of advocacy initiatives.
Global Interconnectedness Frame
In general, “frames” are ways of viewing an issue. They may help define how the audience understands what is at stake and what solutions might make sense. Advocates can call to mind the global interconnectedness frame simply by reminding viewers or listeners how clouds and climate sweep across the Earth without regard to borders. This way of looking at the world, for example, encourages support for shared solutions to global issues through collaborative institutions like UNICEF or the World Health Organization.
Global Mayhem
Research suggests that many Americans see the world through a global mayhem frame that is reinforced by the often sensationalized and fragmentary coverage of world events on local television news, the leading source of information for most Americans. This frame portrays a chaotic world of coups, earthquakes, and other disasters where only Americans are seen to respond.
Incremental Progress
A reference to the capacity-building and advocacy gains made along the way by coalitions or organizations on the road to a policy goal. Evaluation of advocacy will probably be more effective in demonstrating incremental progress; advocacy efforts can rarely demonstrate direct responsibility for large policy changes.
Simple measurements that signal whether advocacy activities are on target to reach predetermined benchmarks. Indicators illustrate real-time results allowing advocates to benefit from the formative evaluation process.
Learning Culture
An evaluation ethos that promotes an environment of continuous progress and learning from one another's advocacy activities. A learning culture encourages and is sustained by dialogue between and among grantmakers and grantees. Organizations in a learning culture are open to sharing experiences (successful or not!) and lessons learned so that advocates and grantmakers test and refine their assumptions about what works, helping the field of foreign policy and global development advocacy advance.
A searchable online archive of print media, including newspapers, scholarly journals, articles and magazines (please note that using LexisNexis requires a paid subscription). Utilizing this or a similar online tool can help you establish a baseline media measure, or simply provide you with a quick scan of the coverage your issue has received over a certain period of time.
Local and Regional Media
In addition to national news outlets such as The New York Times or ABC news, advocates can choose to pitch their stories to local media whose viewers or readers are predominantly concentrated in a town, district, state or region. This often proves to be a cost-effective choice and a wise tactic, in particular for advocates seeking to influence constituents from a specific district.
Management Committee
A coordinating body in an advocacy coalition whose purpose is to ensure that member organizations are participating in the coalition according to the plan of action and theory of change and ensuring that the coalition's advocacy plan remains on track. The management committee should not overlap with advocacy staff working on the initiative in member organizations.
Meaningful Discussion with Grantee
A conversation through which grantmakers and grantees reach a shared understand the objectives of the initiative, and agree on realistic and explicit advocacy and evaluation goals. This frank discussion is critical to connecting the efforts of advocates and grantmakers to the actual events on the ground. Use the opportunity to consider external or unplanned events and how they can shape the future of the advocacy grant and its evaluation.
Media Partnership
A formal relationship between an organization or a coalition and a media company to pursue a common goal. Because of their function in society, it is likely a media company will be more responsive to a public education or communication effort that helps inform its viewers than to an advocacy campaign with a specific policy “ask.”
Monitor Media Coverage
More than just paying attention to what the media has to say about your issue, media monitoring involves establishing a baseline for the coverage and understanding the default frame your issue holds in the public eye. Once that baseline is determined, organizations have much more credibility in citing a relationship between their efforts and the resulting media coverage. Depending on the resources available, advocates can use free online tools to continually search public news sites for relevant coverage, or apply more sophisticated evaluation techniques such as periodic content analyses and professional media clipping services. Reviewing how coverage has changed over time can help advocates track incremental progress.
News Alerts
Periodic updates from media sources and newswires that advocates can set up using key words: 'foreign assistance,' 'Millennium Development Goals,' 'tsunami,' 'transformational diplomacy,' 'HIV/AIDS.' Many news Web sites and search engines offer free media alerts that you can customize. Many also offer “RSS feeds”: a service using RSS (really simple syndication) technology to deliver up-to-the-minute news on specfic topics.
Online Communities
Online forums for a defined group of individuals to share ideas and enter into dialog. Online communities can be organized around themes, missions or a characteristic common to all members of the community.
Organizations, coalitions or individuals whose efforts are contrary to your advocacy values or goals. Opponents can be competing schools of thought, unfavorable media attention, competing issues or specific organizations, coalitions or individuals whose efforts directly oppose your advocacy goal.
Outputs without Outcomes
A set of evaluation results listing the activities accomplished in an advocacy initiative (for example, the number of advocacy kits distributed or e-mails sent) without indicating the outcome or consequences of the activities (what was done with the kits or emails that made the outputs effective). This type of evaluation result does not make a connection between advocacy efforts and incremental progress toward a policy goal.
Paid Media
Buying ad space in local media is often a better and cheaper avenue to reach your key constituency. For instance, as of September 2006, the same full-page Sunday advertisement space is currently valued at $94,500 in the New York Times, $61,034.40 in the Seattle Times and $25,639.25 in the Des Moines Register.
Online downloadable media, either audio or a combination of audio and video, which can be played on computers or on handheld playback devices like iPods.
Teamwork Model
An approach to staffing evaluation where most or all of the advocacy staff members dedicate a portion of their time toward the evaluation process. The evaluation activities are coordinated by a central staff member whose job is to aggregate results and ensure overall evaluation quality. This model is most efficient when advocacy activities can double as indicators for evaluation purposes.
Theory of Change
A set of assumptions about advocacy activities and their intended results. Theories of change include a step-by-step series of advocacy activities, typically linked in a flow chart to the desired results. Theories of change help to plan advocacy efforts and provide the basis for evaluating them in real time, indicating whether the intended results are occurring or if there is a need to modify the advocacy strategy.
Unplanned Events
Unanticipated events beyond the control of the advocates or grantmakers. External or unplanned events can have a positive or negative impact on advocacy initiatives and may require that the advocacy plan and theory of change be adjusted to account for them. Some foreign policy advocacy campaigns have greatly benefited from the “luck factor” when unplanned events work in their favor; others have had to reconsider the entire underlying theory of change because of unfavorable external events.