Learning about Measuring Advocacy and Policy Change: Are Baselines always Feasible and Desirable?

This paper captures some recent challenges that emerged from establishing a baseline for an empowerment and accountability fund. It is widely accepted that producing a baseline is logical and largely uncontested – with the recent increased investment in baselines being largely something to be welcomed. This paper is therefore not a challenge to convention, but rather a note of caution: where adaptive programming is necessary, and there are multiple pathways to success, then the ‘baseline endline’ survey tradition has its limitations. This is particularly so for interventions which seek to alter complex political-economic dynamics, such as between citizens and those in power.

Concluding paragraph: It is not that baselines are impossible, but that in such cases process tracking and ex post assessments may be necessary to capture the full extent of the results and impacts where programmes are flexible, demand-led, and working on change areas that cannot be fully specified from the outset. Developing greater robustness around methodologies to  evaluate the work of civil society – particularly E&A initiatives that seek to advocate and influence policy change – should therefore not be limited to simple baseline (plus end-line) survey traditions.

by Chris Barnett, an IDS Practice Paper in Brief, July 2013 Available as pdf

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