Monitoring, evaluation and learning in NGO advocacy

This state-of-the-art report, commissioned by Oxfam America, describes how nine advocacy and campaigning organisations in the UK and US undertake monitoring and evaluation of their campaigns.

The study was undertaken by two independent evaluators experienced with advocacy initiatives and involved a voluntary cohort of nine NGOs who were surveyed and interviewed.


“For organizations committed to social change, advocacy often figures as a crucial strategic element. How to assess effectiveness in advocacy is, therefore, important. The usefulness of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) in advocacy are subject to much current debate. Advocacy staff, MEL professionals, senior managers, the funding community, and stakeholders of all kinds are searching for ways to improve practices – and thus their odds of success – in complex and contested advocacy environments.

This study considers what a selection of leading advocacy organizations are doing in practice. We set out to identify existing practice and emergent trends in advocacy-related MEL practice, to explore current challenges and innovations. The study presents perceptions of how MEL contributes to advocacy effectiveness, and reviews the resources and structures dedicated to MEL.

This inquiry was initiated, funded and managed by Oxfam America. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) served an advisory role to the core project team, which included Gabrielle Watson of Oxfam America, and consultants Juliette Majot and Jim Coe. The following organizations participated in the inquiry:

ActionAid International | Amnesty International | Bread for the World | CARE,USA |Greenpeace International | ONE | Oxfam America | Oxfam Great Britain | Sierra Club”


  • Executive summary
  • Purpose of paper
  • Methodology
  • 1 How ‘MEL’ is understood and organized
  • 2 MEL systems: context, continuity & learning moments
  • 3 Perceptions of value, purpose & quality of MEL
  • 4 Gathering, analysing and using information 
  • 5 Importance of senior management support
  • 6 Balancing centralization and decentralization
  • 7 Accountabilities
  • 8 Defining outcomes and assessing influence
  • 9 Does MEL drive effectiveness? 
  • 10 Structured advocacy, formalized MEL
  • Principles guiding good practice in MEL
  • Some future directions
  • Appendix: survey data


Coe, C. & Majot, J. (2013). Monitoring, evaluation and learning in NGO advocacy. Oxfam America.

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