Effective social justice advocacy: a theory-of-change framework for assessing progress

Reprod Health Matters. 2011 Nov;19(38):146-62. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(11)38582-5.

Abstract

This article offers a theory-of-change framework for social justice advocacy. It describes broad outcome categories against which activists, donors and evaluators can assess progress (or lack thereof) in an ongoing manner: changes in organisational capacity, base of support, alliances, data and analysis from a social justice perspective, problem definition and potential policy options, visibility, public norms, and population level impacts. Using these for evaluation enables activists and donors to learn from and rethink their strategies as the political context and/or actors change over time. The paper presents a case study comparing factors that facilitated reproductive rights policy wins during the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa and factors that undermined their implementation in the post-apartheid period. It argues that after legal and policy victories had been won, failure to maintain strong organizations and continually rethink strategies contributed to the loss of government focus on and resources for implementation of new policies. By implication, evaluating effectiveness only by an actual policy change does not allow for ongoing learning to ensure appropriate strategies. It also fails to recognise that a policy win can be overturned and needs vigilant monitoring and advocacy for implementation. This means that funding and organising advocacy should seldom be undertaken as a short-term proposition. It also suggests that the building and maintenance of organisational and leadership capacity is as important as any other of the outcome categories in enabling success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lobbying*
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Public Policy*
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Social Justice*
  • South Africa