Influencing policy is a central part of much international development work. Donor agencies, for example, must engage in policy dialogue if they channel funds through budget support, to try to ensure that their money is well-spent. Civil society organisations are moving from service delivery to advocacy in order to secure more sustainable, widespread change. And there is an increasing recognition that researchers need to engage with policy-makers if their work is to have wider public value.
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E), a central tool to manage interventions, improve practice and ensure accountability, is highly challenging in these contexts. Policy change is a highly complex process shaped by a multitude of interacting forces and actors. ‘Outright success’, in terms of achieving specific, hoped-for changes is rare, and the work that does influence policy is often unique and rarely repeated or replicated, with many incentives working against the sharing of ‘good practice’.
This paper provides an overview of approaches to monitoring and evaluating policy influence, based on an exploratory review of the literature and selected interviews with expert informants, as well as ongoing discussions and advisory projects for policy-makers and practitioners who also face the challenges of monitoring and evaluation. There are a number of lessons that can be learned, and tools that can be used, that provide workable solutions to these challenges. While there is a vast breadth of activities that aim to influence policy, and a great deal of variety in theory and practice according to each different area or type of organisation, there are also some clear similarities and common lessons.
Rather than providing a systematic review of practice, this paper is intended as a guide to the topic, outlining different challenges and approaches, with some suggestions for further reading.