Monitoring and evaluation of social impact campaigns can be tricky! Having said that, there is value in starting somewhere. Even if your metrics and processes are not perfect, there is great benefit in ‘getting a sense’ of what your reach and impact has been. There is a paucity of monitoring and evaluative efforts in campaigning generally, and in long-term campaigns to shift social norms, specifically. So at EveryAGE Counts we want to help build that practise.
Before we get to the possible ways you might wish to assess how successful you are being in achieving the change you want to see in the world, here are a few issues to consider.
A campaign is an octopus, not a single cell
One of the key reasons evaluating campaigns can be difficult is that unlike other ‘things’ (like programs, services, marketing campaigns which may be more defined and time limited), it can be hard to disentangle what influence your campaign has had vis a vis all the other things that are going on in the world! How can you know whether a particular outcome is attributable to your campaign or attributable to a particular event, person or initiative? So it may be useful to identify some indicators, things that point to the change you are working towards. Your indicators won’t be exhaustive or perfect but they can signal the progress you are making – and you can always add to these as new things emerge that you might not have thought of.
Being opportunistic v ‘sticking to the plan’
Have a plan. Think about what you want to achieve, how you will get there, how long it will take, what resources you need. This gives you a benchmark to assess against. However, regardless of your best planning efforts there will be opportunities that arise that you could not anticipate. Pivoting to these opportunities may have a profound impact on your reach and impact so you need to build in flexibility. People who join you along the way will have great ideas and skills that you want to use. Do you ‘stick to the plan’ or take up those opportunities? For evaluation purposes, this may be troublesome – but may be great for the campaign. However, it could divert resources away from the things you thought you would be doing. Just try to be clear that there is a clear link between the ‘new thing’ and the outcome you are working towards.
Developing capacity…in others
The achievement of tangible outcomes is critical. ‘Wins’ demonstrate success, bring more support and resources and builds a wider base of participants. However, short-term successes need to be balanced with longer-term goals. This includes the less visible aim of building capacity among supporters, members, and in the community, so they can contribute to driving change in their own ways over time. But it can be hard to assess so you may wish to keep it simple by just quantifying the number of approaches or engagements you have. It’s a start!
Clarify your asks
What do you want of people, policy, services? What do you want them to do? How do you want them to change? If you can be specific, you can measure it – but try to have the scope and flexibility to assess and capture the things that may not have been on your list initially. Again, things pop up that you may not have been able to foresee so have a process in place to develop your asks in response to new opportunities, and maybe set some timeframes for how long this process should take – and assess whether you met them.
Is it worth it?
Evaluation efforts can consume considerable resources and you need to think about what works for your campaign? Do you need to assess short, medium or long-term impact? To whom do you need to report the results of your evaluation? What do they need? This is not a perfect science and our experience has been that a balance of measures is best.
At EveryAGE Counts we draw a distinction between monitoring and evaluation. Sometimes we monitor weekly, monthly or as required, then we evaluate annually. As we are a long-term campaign, all of these efforts start to build a picture of our reach and impact over time. And because campaigns can run at such speed, gathering these measures together can be a great opportunity for the team and supporters to stop, reflect and celebrate on just how much we have achieved.
So with all that in mind here are a few quantitative and qualitative measures for you to consider.
- Sign-ups, numbers or growth of supporters/members
- Social media – likes, engagement eg Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
- Engagement with key stakeholders eg local MPs, policy or decision makers
- Measures of ‘recall’/recognition of your brand/logo/campaign.
Media (if you have access to a media monitoring service these reports are easy to get)
- Editorial (mentions)
- Audience reach
- Advertising value (equivalent)
- Survey feedback from participants
- Feedback from event participants
- Interviews with a sample of participants/members/supporters
- Policy ‘wins’ or extent to which you influenced policy
- Number of requests to represent your issue/campaign in media, conferences, with stakeholders
- The extent to which others (individuals, organisations) have ‘taken up’ your message or used your resources
- How quickly, completely and consistently could you respond to media requests or stories in media?
A final note
None of this is perfect, nor is there one best way to do this. Some, none or maybe all of the above measures may be of interest to you. Chances are you will have limited resources. However, if you can commit to assessing your activities and the extent to which you are achieving your outcomes, the better chance you will have of building on your success. And if you can share your results please do. We are all learning. Good luck!
Some helpful resources