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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“Advocacy is a tactical response to an agenda, so the entire issue of agenda-setting is critical. The more foundations move toward strategic investments to achieve specific policy goals, the more they must look for groups who have similar goals and would be most effective in reaching them.”
— Linda Frey, Hewlett Foundation


Supporters of the third revision of the “African Growth and Opportunity Act” or AGOA III, demonstrated exemplary unity of purpose in their campaign around the legislation. Despite facing numerous hurdles — including the pitched political battles raging in Washington during the 2004 election campaign — the AGOA III Committee launched a concerted lobbying effort focused solely on locking in passage of the bill that year, and they were successful. Read more »

Goal Setting: How to Ensure Your Goal is SMART

Your goal in an advocacy campaign should be a specific change in policy. In foreign policy advocacy, goals are rarely attainable overnight. You will need a thorough, well-considered plan. Such a plan will serve as the basis for the kind of continuous evaluation and course correction that will help you stay on track to reach your goal.

Two critical evaluation tools help measure progress towards achieving your advocacy goals within your evaluation framework: benchmarks and indicators. Remember, benchmarks are the milestones along the way and indicators are the evaluation findings that let you know if you are on the track to the next benchmark—and to your ultimate goal.

Foreign policy and global development advocacy campaigns can have two types of goals: capacity-building and advocacy progress. Both are legitimate. And even if you are unable to achieve your policy goal, let's hope that by building capacity you will be a stronger advocate the next time. Both kinds of goals should be detailed in the advocacy proposal. For both, you should have a theory of change that lays out clearly, for yourself and your partners and funders, how you believe the desired change will come about, as well as what you will do to encourage that change.

All goals for foreign policy and global development advocacy should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible.

Specific: State the desired ultimate policy outcome. Many foreign policy advocacy campaigns do not make their advocacy “ask” clear enough or specific enough to be achievable with the planned activities. You and your funder should be able to identify a policy aim that you share; a mutual understanding of the policy ask happens all too rarely. The same holds true for capacity building: determine what you want at the end of the investment in terms of growth in the organization's or coalition's ability to advocate. And again, work with your grantmaker towards a clear, shared understanding of these capacity-building goals.

Measurable: Develop benchmarks and indicators to be sure you can measure your progress toward reaching your goal.

Attainable: Foreign policy advocacy is a long-term endeavor. Look at your resources and timeframe to make sure you can actually reach your goal; if not, reassess your goal given the limitations. Check the toolkit for examples.

Realistic: Assess the state of the field for your advocacy topic. Make sure that your goal is not based on unrealistic assumptions about available capacity to tackle the issue. Look hard at whether decision-makers can be moved in your direction.

Tangible: Make sure that once your goal is reached, it will have a real outcome. Whether it is progress for helping people living in poverty in developing countries or a bill signed into law, your constituents need to be able to see demonstrable evidence of this accomplishment.

Add to Toolkit (Available in the Toolkit)

When it comes to reaching all of your goals, remember that proper planning and the ability to remain flexible allows you to take advantage of whatever is thrown your way, and adapt to a changing environment. Planning and flexibility can put you on the right path, and keep you there.


  • Have both an advocacy goal and a capacity-building goal.
  • Start from the goal and work backwards. With a strong, long-term goal established, benchmarks, indicators and theories of change will come more easily.
  • Use the SMART test for each of your goals.
  • Get your funder involved in the goal setting process. A funder who is on board with a SMART long-term goal will be a better partner throughout the evaluation process.