News 22nd Apr 2020

Measuring impact: Why Monitoring, Evaluating and Learning from advocacy really matters

Lucía Cirimello

Project Manager - Commitments

Lucia is the Project Manager of the ‘Promise to Practice’ project, which tracks and advocates for the completion of anti-corruption commitments that various governments made at the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit. She is responsible for the overall delivery of the project, representing TI-UK externally in relevant fora and building strategic relationships and creating opportunities to enhance the impact of the project. Lucia started her career in finance before relocating to London to specialise in international development.

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Monitoring and measuring impact and effectiveness has never been more important. These practices are essential to ensure better-informed policies and projects by understanding what has worked before, what should improve, and to allocate adequately, spend efficiently on resources and achieve greater results. Learning from past experience is key to guide future action in the right direction.

In this spirit, Transparency International UK’s Promise to Practice project, which monitors the progress of commitments made by governments at the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit, has produced a new report that grasps the complexities of Monitoring, Evaluating and Learning (MEL) in the transparency and accountability sector, and provides some simple solutions that can help organisations and projects to embed a culture of MEL in their everyday work. Although the lessons compiled in the report are rooted in the advocacy space, the underpinning message is timely and far-reaching: assessing effectiveness and gathering learning in turn creates more impactful projects and policies.

Understanding Impact

Assessing the impact of advocacy has long been a concern of MEL teams because the advocacy process is not linear. Constantly changing contexts influence and readjust activities, creating a never-ending process of adaptation. Perhaps one of the most important qualities of advocates is the ability to quickly alter their strategies to ensure their asks remain significant in a world that is constantly changing – a challenge that is certainly facing the advocacy team at Transparency International UK and many other organisations at present. This makes it difficult to understand the impact of advocacy from a long-term perspective.

One particularly complex issue is that of attributing outcomes to advocacy activities. Shifting the focus from supposedly impartial and objective accounts of attribution towards the compilation of evidence about collaborative change-making processes, creates a more realistic picture. It also prepares advocates with the tools to face constant change through a more accurate representation of past experience. Moving from attribution to contribution, with different actors narrating their superposed achievements, means embracing complexity and uncertainty, bringing grandiloquent ideas down to earthly, replicable actions.

Simple, Practical Tools to Foster a MEL Culture

There are unpretentious ways of creating a space for learning and understanding the impact achieved in organisations, projects and teams. These include a wide array of simple tools featured in our report, such as mapping systems and networks, understanding blockers and aiders of change, maintaining weekly team impact logs, or developing narrative stories. We have found these tools invaluable in our own team as we have tracked the impact of our work over weeks, months and years. The common denominator is to keep the process straightforward, collaborative and participatory, making these methods part of the daily routine.

These tools should not be underestimated: they can be crucial in planning and preparing responses to fluctuating circumstances like those that we are living through at the moment. Instead of constantly having new reactions to change, keeping track of past successes and failures can show us what has worked before and what has not, guiding us down the right path in uncertain times. It is a way of avoiding a culture of ‘do and forget ‘, and of recycling the best strategies to achieve the change that we want to see.