Looking Through the Right End of the Telescope

Published: July 2011

Type: Publication

This brief assesses the state of the advocacy evaluation field and questions whether its emphasis on the development of tools is best serving advocates.


An evolving dialogue has emerged among advocates, evaluation professionals, and funders concerned with evaluating advocacy. An earlier focus on questions regarding whether it is possible to evaluate advocacy has led to a proliferation of new tools that are aimed at responding to the real and perceived unique challenges to evaluating advocacy.

The authors argue that this emphasis on the development of tools may be overstated. When examining how advocacy can best be served by evaluation, the authors argue that a disproportionate focus on tools can cause other important issues to be overlooked, from the perspective that not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.

Vigilance to the risks of overemphasis on tools, and understanding their limits, improves the chances of using evaluation in ways that help support more effective advocacy.

This brief explores characteristics of advocacy, trends in evaluating advocacy, limitations of tools and models, changing dynamics of advocacy evaluation, divisions between evaluators and practitioners, and the necessity of critical thinking for both advocates and evaluators.