Evaluating advocacy: The challenge of learning from the invisible
Sustainable Development Goals: 4, 16
- SDG 4 - Quality Education
- SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Advocacy is an important strategy in a middle-income country where most UNICEF work is 'upstream', focussed on normative or social change. However, it is this very natureof 'strategy' that makes advocacy quite 'invisible' in UNICEF Programme documents and results frameworks even though it contributes to most results.
UNICEF Thailand is conducting an evaluation of its advocacy work (currently in inception phase) aimed at distilling learning from past patterns and practices to be applied to the planning and implementation of advocacy initiatives in the current programme. The scope includes policy and public advocacy and is limited to initiatives that were started or ongoingduring the previous country programme (2012-2016). The evaluation will be based on a non-experimental case-study design to enable deep insights into what has worked (and not), why and under what conditions. Most and least successful advocacy efforts will be selected based on criteria around data availability, covering public and policy advocacy, use of multiple advocacy tools, engagement of a wide range of partners, multi-sectorality, and an obvious connection with advocacy priorities in the current Country Programme Document.
The evaluation team (consisting of an international advocacy expert/team leader, an international human rights law expert, an international evaluation specialist and a national research assistant) is larger than anticipated when writing the TOR; however, it is the right combination of expertise for this exercise. In addition, the team leader is familiar with complicated office dynamics on the advocacy 'function' due to past employment as an advocacy specialist in an international organization.
The evaluation is managed by the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PM&E) specialist supported by the Advocacy Communications officer. A reference group, consisting of the Chief of Communication (UNICEF Thailand) as well as the Chief of Communication/Advocacy and the Representative from neighbouring country offices, is providing strategic guidance. Quality assurance is provided by the Regional Evaluation Adviser and by the Country Management Team who review the TOR and inception/ final draft reports. Given that the CMT includes all section chiefs, it helps ensure that the evaluation is utilization-focused.
UNICEF Thailand is excited to undertake this exercise that will help make advocacy more visible and better understood. The findings are much anticipated by all sections and we will be happy to share our experience (good or bad) with other offices.