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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“I would like to see more [advocacy campaigns] track progress — period. People are overly focused on what happened in the end, and ignore what happened along the way.”

—Julia Coffman, Harvard Family Research Project


Debt relief for developing countries was a major focus of the July 2005 G8 Summit, but the efforts to make that happen went back many years—and were guided by a series of well-defined benchmarks set out by the Jubilee campaign. From securing bipartisan support to the introduction of bills, these milestones indicated that the campaign was on the right path and going in the right direction.
Example provided by Jim McDonald, Bread for the World

Benchmarks for Capacity Building and Policy Change

Achieving a big goal like providing debt relief, eradicating malaria, or reducing global poverty is a long-term endeavor. So, if breakthrough legislation is not passed during the first year of your advocacy activities, how can you prove that your efforts had a positive impact?

You can do this by tracking your progress—not necessarily your results. To do this, evaluators use benchmarks: milestones established as “check points” towards success on the journey to achieving your end goal. Benchmarks can help practitioners map progress and determine short-term, incremental successes while pursuing long-term advocacy goals. Benchmarks for foreign policy advocacy should track two distinct forms of progress: capacity building and advocacy.

Benchmarks and Indicators
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Capacity-building progress
Once you decide to advocate for a cause, you need to determine what skills, know-how and expertise you need to help ensure you are successful. You can begin by considering the following “check list” for starting an advocacy campaign:

  • Understand the field and issue landscape.
  • Develop strong messaging.
  • Create, manage and increase a network of contacts in decision-making roles.
  • Develop the abilities to respond and react quickly to advocacy opportunities.
  • Work efficiently with the media.
  • Collaborate with partner organizations, often in coalitions.
  • Create, educate and grow a constituency or advocacy base.
  • Strengthen your knowledge base and analytical competencies to better contribute to the foreign policy and global development debate.
  • Monitor and analyze legislation.


No one can complete this list overnight, so benchmarks that measure your capacity-building progress can reveal improvements—or areas that need more work—in the ability of your organization or coalition to advocate. Movement along a positive direction is a measure of success even if a bill is not passed in Congress!

Policy advocacy progress
The second type of benchmark represents targets along the way to achieving policy-related goals. Advocacy progress benchmarks may include developing a constituency of Congressional champions for your issue or demonstrating that your proposal is under discussion in official legislative proceedings. While these do not translate into immediate results in achieving your foreign policy goals, they do prove that momentum is building in the political arena. Setting these smaller milestones will keep your advocacy activities on track —and your and your constituents motivated—toward achieving your long-term vision.


  • Focus on incremental steps when developing policy benchmarks.
  • Don't be afraid to claim results for capacity-building and advocacy benchmarks. While capacity building does not have an immediate effect on policy, it is essential for the long haul. Don't sell yourself short: Set both types of benchmarks and be proud of improving your capacity as an advocate.
  • Use your theory of change to help establish benchmarks. Your advocacy theory boxes will contain clues to possible tactical benchmarks.