Funders engaged in advocacy field building have different evaluation needs than those that aim to build specific advocacy capacities or advance a particular policy change. This resource brings together emerging ideas about how to assess advocacy fields and evaluate advocacy field-building initiatives.
Foundations are recognizing that a long-term strategy for meaningful and sustained policy change requires building the collective capacity and alignment of a field of individuals and organizations who work alongside one another toward a shared broad vision. More than achieving a single specific policy goal, this “field building” approach to advocacy and policy grantmaking is designed to strengthen the whole field of nonprofit advocates to more effectively advance, implement, and maintain a variety of policies that will contribute to the foundation’s larger mission.
Funders engaged in advocacy field building have different evaluation needs than those that aim to build specific advocacy capacities or advance a particular policy change. They need to understand the strengths and weaknesses across a field of advocates, rather than only on the individual organizational level. They also want to know more about how the field’s capacities, relationships and power dynamics change over time because of their interventions. Yet understanding the field and detecting changes within it is difficult because fields are a complex system of actors and relationships that change for a variety of reasons and in hard-to-see ways.
This brief tests and refines ideas to help organize thinking about complex advocacy fields. They have been used to generate indicators of a strong advocacy field, as tools for assessing the baseline of a field, and in strategies for measuring change in fields.
The aim is to trigger collaboration among a broader network of evaluators on advocacy field assessment and evaluation.