Successful advocacy efforts are characterized not by their ability to proceed along a predefined track, but by their capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. The most effective advocacy and idea-generating organizations, such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities or the Institute for Justice, are not defined by a single measurable goal, but by a general organizing principle that can be adapted to hundreds of situations. Rather than focusing on an organization’s logic model (which can only say what they will do if the most likely scenarios come to pass), funders need to determine whether the organization can nimbly and creatively react to unanticipated challenges or opportunities. The key is not strategy so much as strategic capacity: the ability to read the shifting environment of politics for subtle signals of change, to understand the opposition, and to adapt deftly. [emphasis added]
That’s Steven Teles and Mark Schmitt writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The full article is long, but worth it. They provide a great analysis of what it takes to do advocacy well and why that makes it so hard to evaluate. Their examples draw from advocacy campaigns on domestic US issues, but their points apply to international campaigns as well. If you wanted to get wonky, their argument could also be framed in terms of complexity. That might be a post for another day.