Advocacy comes in many shapes and forms. Many advocates tackle a challenge in very different ways, using a variety of tactics and tools in different legal and sociopolitical environments. These tactics and tools come from a wide range of institutional, organizational, political and geopolitical positions, with advocates who have varying capacities, organizational cultures and resources to contribute to the particular project in question.
As an organization, we want to succeed with our advocacy: rectify an injustice, abolish a harmful law or policy, change discriminatory attitudes, protect people and communities against abuse, secure funds to protect health and save lives. To increase our chances of successfully making change, we want to be more systematic in assessing the impact of our advocacy efforts. What works or is working? What doesn’t or isn’t?
In Advocacy and Social Justice: Measuring Impact, they have tried to refine and distill some of our thinking about how to monitor and measure our impact as advocates, and to learn from that — particularly in relation to our legal advocacy work. Throughout this process, they have learned and hope that, with a continued commitment to ongoing learning, we will become better, stronger, more effective advocates.
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The Legal Network is committed to improving our own advocacy practice, our collaborations with others and the impact of our work. This guide on monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) is meant to help us systematically examine and document their work so that they may continuously refine and hone their strategies in the pursuit of their mission.
Why a Guide for Monitoring and Evaluating Legal Advocacy?
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Developing good MEL systems can be challenging for advocacy organizations as they are often tackling big problems with limited resources, leaving little time for thinking through a MEL system. There is an increasing number of advocacy guides available (and they’ve drawn from some of them), but they thought it was important to have a guide that reflected the nature of legal advocacy. They created this guide with LYV Consulting, with significant input from allies, to best meet the organization’s needs for MEL regarding their advocacy. They hope the lessons they’ve learned evaluating advocacy and articulated in this guide are applicable to other organizations as well.
How to Use this Guide
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This is a guide, not a manual or a blueprint. It provides guidance, examples, and sample tools so that social justice and legal advocacy organizations can improve their monitoring and evaluation system in ways and at a pace that benefit them. It can be read straight through, but it is designed so that you can consult the section of most relevance. Likewise, you are free to pick and choose from the tools and approaches provided, and to adapt them in ways that make sense.
The guide is divided into two parts:
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- Part I describes building a monitoring and evaluation system for advocacy efforts.
- Section 1 introduces you to the guide.
- Section 2 covers the basics of MEL, the particular characteristics of advocacy MEL and prerequisites of effective MEL design.
- Section 3 begins with a generic framework for understanding and assessing advocacy, then takes a more in-depth look at legal advocacy, including strategic litigation, to help fine-tune the generic framework.
- Section 4 discusses the process for developing and integrating a MEL system into the organization, including the roles, responsibilities, process and extent to which external evaluation is warranted in an organization with strong monitoring and learning systems.
- Section 5 introduces some basic monitoring tools for legal advocacy. Even without a full-blown MEL system, strategically using some or all of these tools can generate important knowledge for an organization.
- Section 6 briefly discusses the need for external evaluation in the context of a strong MEL system
- Part II includes monitoring tools they’ve developed that can be used or adapted for other organizations.
In addition, Appendix I explores when it is appropriate to commission an external evaluation, while identifying some approaches that are typically used in advocacy evaluation, and Appendix II includes a bibliography of additional resources.
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