Unlocking greater impact: What CARE’s advocacy wins tell us

by 08th Jan 2021
Women on the frontlines of advocacy in Niger (CARE #March4Women campaign, 2019) Women on the frontlines of advocacy in Niger (CARE #March4Women campaign, 2019)

By Dina Hanania, Katherine Mercer, and Andrew Wells-Dang

CARE’s impact data over the last five years has shown that nearly half of our total impact comes from advocacy and influencing that stretches beyond the direct implementation of programs. This striking number points to a clear conclusion: advocacy to influence policies and programs is a powerful pathway to scale and is key to multiplying impact. But what types of advocacy work? What combination of advocacy tools and tactics yields initiatives that bring impactful wins to fruition?

Last year, CARE released a learning report reviewing the strategies underpinning advocacy initiatives that have successfully influenced policies, plans, and budgets in 32 countries. This year, we’ve broadened the snapshot. In a meta-analysis of 89 reported advocacy wins between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, CARE uncovered learning on effective tools and tactics that have catalyzed our advocacy wins around the globe and enabled advocates to adapt and respond to challenges. An ‘advocacy win’ means a change in policy or practice with evidence showing the contribution of CARE and our local partners. Our analysis extends these results to offer tangible catalytic lessons on effective tools and tactics for advocates around the world, and challenges faced along the way.

Here is what we found…

Local partnerships shape the majority of reported advocacy wins

AIIR tool analysis graphic

Collaboration and coalition building appeared in 77 of the 89 reported advocacy wins. Analysis reveals that collaboration and coalition building at the national level shape successful advocacy more frequently and more decisively than international collaboration does. A majority (60%) of the total reported advocacy wins underscored the importance of national collaboration and coalition building, identifying coalition building at the national level as an effective and critical tactic.

There is a distinguishable success rate associated with locally rooted advocacy that supports and builds on networks and coalitions with local, national, and grassroots organizations. CARE’s advocacy is most successful, most powerful, and most impactful when it is locally rooted and driven by committed staff advocates and partners at the national level. Advocacy initiatives that centralized building and joining coalitions and networks with local, national, and grassroots organizations ultimately met success.

Effective advocacy is evidence-driven

Graphic - three points for successful advocacy

CARE teams around the globe have successfully leveraged evidence and data to lobby policy-makers, mobilize support, and contribute to impactful changes. Serving our networks and landing us a seat at the table, evidence generation, including the collection and presentation of both quantitative, qualitative, and rapid gender analysis data, catalyzes advocacy initiatives.

Partners and volunteer advocates have leveraged evidence and data in face-to-face advocacy meetings to influence decision-makers. Our analysis shows a strong correlation between effective face-to-face advocacy meetings and producing reports that showcase CARE and partners’ data and analysis. Stunningly, 100% of all reported food and nutrition security and sexual and reproductive health rights advocacy wins between fiscal years 2017 and 2019 involved advocacy activities that built on or were centered around report production.

Similarly, both quantitative and qualitative data collection appears to be of prominent importance for many advocacy teams across outcome areas, and particularly women’s economic empowerment, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive health rights. Our findings once again signal the importance of collecting sex and age disaggregated data (SADD). As data collection is crucial for successful advocacy, SADD is needed to put women and girls at the center of our advocacy objectives.

Building on this, the findings highlight the importance of resources to strengthen and expand existing research and knowledge management capacities and deepen evidence bases to co-create and drive data-driven advocacy. Multiplying impact through advocacy makes this an inevitable prerequisite.

To unlock greater impact, common challenges require attention

To continue to multiply impact through advocacy, it is important to recognize and address challenges faced by even the most successful advocacy teams. These challenges include:

  • One in four advocacy wins between fiscal years 2017 and 2019 reported the lack of consistent engagement as a salient challenge that complicated arriving at advocacy objectives. Across areas of advocacy topics, inconsistent engagement from donors, governments and, in some cases, from CARE, emerged as one of the most common challenges impeding advocacy.
  • In the same vein, one in four advocacy wins cited limited and stretched capacities as a common challenge. Around the globe, teams reported a combination of not enough time or resources to engage in advocacy and influencing as an obstacle.

Looking ahead

COVID-19 continues to bring a host of volatile variables that challenge many existing ways of working, bringing waves of change to advocacy. With data now harder to collect and face-to-face meetings among networks and with policy-makers no longer a part of our daily norms, what will successful advocacy look like in light of COVID-19? Our ongoing analysis of reported advocacy wins will inform a slice of the answer over the coming months.

This blog was co-authored by Dina Hanania; Katherine Mercer, an intern with the CARE USA Global Advocacy team; and Andrew Wells-Dang, Deputy Director, Advocacy, Strategy and Learning, for CARE USA.

Dina Hanania

I joined CARE in January 2019 to work on gender-based violence in emergencies programming across global advocacy and humanitarian programmes, and because I believe in the power of truly centring the needs and priorities of women and girls in emergencies. As the GBV in Emergencies Knowledge Management Specialist at CARE USA, I’m currently working on CARE’s GBV risk mitigation portfolio in humanitarian settings. Specifically, I manage knowledge and analyse data to facilitate the integration of GBV risk mitigation into all aspects of humanitarian response and ensure programs and services are safer, more accessible, and of better quality to all.

I’m particularly motivated by the potential of unlocking greater impact and more effective programming by leveraging learning from CARE’s wealth of experiences around the globe. Before joining CARE, I worked on a number of research projects at think-tanks like the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, research institutes like the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, and on the direct implementation of GBV in emergencies programming at the United Nations Population Fund in Jordan. I hold a BA in Political Science and Government from Loyola University Chicago, and a Master’s in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University.