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Global Interdependence Initiative
CONTINUOUS PROGRESS Better Advocacy Through Evaluation
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“Recording conversations is important. Web streaming, podcasts… not everything has to be on paper. There are many ways to tell stories and use evaluation.”
— Jim McDonald, Bread for the World


Summative results from an advocacy initiative can be instrumental in building advocacy capacity and improving future advocacy projects. The Jubilee movement learned that using external milestones to create a time-sensitive issue allowed organizations, activists and legislators to focus on an issue for a finite time period. This lesson was later applied to other campaigns.
Example from Advocacy for Impact

Bringing It All Back Together

Summative evaluation is simply the process of aggregating your results and findings after an advocacy program is complete. Most organizations and coalitions find summative evaluation to be the easiest advocacy evaluation process for two reasons: Most organizations are accustomed already to tracing results, and at this point, you have already completed the evaluation legwork.

Summative evaluation helpfully informs your grantmaker about the final results of your advocacy efforts, enhances learning about building capacity for foreign policy, and provides insights for future initiatives.

Summative evaluations can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including: reports, Web articles, scholarly articles, workshops, conferences, online tools and public speaking. You may want to have a conversation with your grantmaker to develop a way to share the results; he or she may be able to provide support for you to disseminate your findings, especially if your results can help build capacity among other organizations working on foreign policy advocacy.

Whether you opt for a workshop, a blog, or a printed publication, summative evaluations should include five primary “sections”:

  1. Progress toward policy goal: Did you reach your ultimate policy goal? If the answer is yes, the summative evaluation will detail how this occurred. If the answer is no, the summative evaluation will serve as a progress report. It is not a bad thing to fall short of the goal as long as you can pinpoint what happened and why, so that you or another group of advocates can pick up where your current advocacy activities ended.
  2. Results: This is the opportunity to get the most out of all your hard work: the chance to summarize all of your results. In this section, include all of your outputs. How many e-mails were sent? How many bills were introduced? How many action kits were downloaded? You've done the statistical heavy lifting to really understand the story behind this information. Now is the time to tell that story. For example, of the people who downloaded action kits on gender equity, what percentage then sent an e-mail to their member of Congress on the issue of girls' education? How many became dues-paying members of your organization or went on a lobby day during your national conference?
  3. Successes and causes: If you have been evaluating your advocacy efforts and constantly improving your activities, you most likely have some successes to share. For this section, refer back to your theory of change, monitoring benchmarks and indicators and your efforts at tracking victories and defeats. Document what you would consider successes—either advocacy progress or capacity-building progress—and share these successes with everyone. To make this section useful to a broader audience, be sure to elaborate on what caused each of your successes. Whether it was luck or a carefully calibrated media placement, learning from your success is important for the field of foreign policy advocacy.
  4. Lessons learned: Acknowledging that not everything may have gone 100 percent as planned, use this section as an opportunity to document some of the lessons you learned throughout your advocacy efforts. Does a particular message not resonate? Is one action more persuasive than another? Sharing this information can help other grantmakers and advocates avoid incorporating false assumptions into their theory of change during their campaign planning.
  5. Recommendations: Based on your experience, what are some key recommendations you would make to future grantmakers and advocates? Think about what you have learned from your advocacy efforts that could be used as a general rule of thumb for foreign policy advocacy. Did your experience put the lie to any conventional wisdom about foreign policy advocacy?

During the summative evaluation process, be sure to share as much information as you feel comfortable sharing with others. The purpose of evaluation is to promote capacity to advocate effectively through continuous progress.


  • Evaluation is a learning experience: the more you can share with others about your advocacy activities, the stronger the field of foreign policy advocacy can become.
  • Wrapping it all up at the end does not necessarily mean submitting a final report to a grant maker; use other creative means to disseminate your evaluation findings to other interested parties.