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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“Expecting that every grant or cluster of grants that we make is going to result in policy change is highly unrealistic; however, change is what boards often expect when they decide to invest in advocacy.”
— Priscilla Lewis, U.S. in the World Initiative (formerly with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund)


“We see some interesting opportunities out there, in particular with the global AIDS work. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently conducted a survey of the American public, asking questions about whether the U.S. should spend more on issues such as global AIDS. People are saying YES, because they see that it can make a difference, and they say the U.S. can do more..." Read more »

Building Momentum: The Tipping Point of Policy Change

For a wide variety of reasons, progress on affecting foreign policy often comes at a glacial pace. Foreign policy decision-making can be quickly paralyzed by external actors and events beyond the control of advocates in the United States. Because the dominant frame that shapes and limits U.S. media coverage of global issues usually focuses on global mayhem — everything from earthquakes and tsunamis to coups and bombings — the public often lowers the priority of global issues. This leads to a diminished interest in action and engagement by the public. What's worse, foreign policy discussions are often unnecessarily laden with jargon, limiting them to intellectual and political circles inside the Beltway and academia.

What constitutes advocacy victory?
Sometimes what seems like an advocacy victory is very short-lived, or suddenly becomes a defeat: a congressperson who promised support backs down; a promising partnership with a media channel falls through the cracks; the event that intended to rally 100,000 people only attracted 10,000. In these situations, grantees may have to regroup and start again. In other situations, a small victory is achieved, but by itself, it is not enough to achieve policy change. For instance, an increase in funding on a specific foreign assistance account is achieved, but it is not sufficient to move the needle for the desired development intervention in sub-Saharan Africa. These victories, however, can point the way for a larger change in two, three or ten years. You can help grantees see and accept this reality of foreign policy advocacy: every victory counts, however small, and can be a stepping stone for the next success.

Building capacity for incremental progress
Grantees deal frequently with small advocacy victories and defeats. But they are likely to feel the need to show more impressive results than it is reasonable to expect. The best way you can support the notion of “building momentum” is by working with grantees to shore up capacity that helps them be agile and act when the time is right. You should also encourage them to share the results of good outcomes as well as defeats with you and other grantmakers, their fellow advocates and their constituents. Defeats constitute important learning opportunities for the grantee, for you and for the advocacy community; they can also be opportunities to rally increased support. As they monitor the landscape and track these incremental changes, grantees will be best equipped to predict when or how these changes could generate a tipping point. Some advocates are very connected with decision-makers—they practically live on Capitol Hill—and they are often “in-the-know” about what's coming up. Others might be so invested in their own work that they have a hard time monitoring all the political ups and downs and detecting upcoming changes. How can they be best prepared to react to such opportunities and threats? How can you help them be ready for the tipping point?

Momentum can build when a bill is introduced with unexpected and influential cosponsors, or when a faith-based group with large membership joins the advocacy campaign. Momentum shifts can occur when new funding is directed to an advocacy target, or if the media has begun framing an issue in a way that benefits your cause. You should encourage grantees to celebrate and share their victories, learn from and share their defeats, be stronger, keep going and build momentum!