Research based Evidence Advocacy guidebook by Young and Quinn

25 May 2012

Eoin Young and Lisa Quinn have published a guidebook on research based evidence advocacy. The guidebook is based on their work with the Open Society Foundations. The guidebook is an interesting new resource for think tanks as it presents along side practical advice and tools a new analytical framework.

It should be noted that the guidebook uses the word advocacy. Many think tanks prefer to stay away from it but readers should note that this really refers to communicating from outside of the policy space; and this is something that many think tanks have to do.

The advocacy planning framework recognises all the premises others make (the context is complex, influence is two ways, etc.) but outlines three interesting categories:

The guidebook covers each of these areas in detail and provides practical advice for each.

There are some issues that could have been given more attention -or maybe ought to be given more attention by the users of the guidebook by making use of other materials (I cannot expect every single guide to cover all bases):

  • As usual, context is limited to what we already know about the policy cycle, the different roles or behaviours of researchers and policymakers, etc. But context is political and it is about values.
  • Evidence is limited to certain type of evidence: “research based”. But this type of evidence is not always available. It also assumes that evidence tells us what to do but this is not the case (at least this is my opinion); evidence informs but cannot argue for its self.
  • Arguments need values -these are missing from the analysis.

An interesting contribution to other guidebooks is the idea of leverage: combining evidence, support and opportunity to push in the direction you want change to happen. Leverage suggests that one needs to look for opportunities but also recognises that we (the think tanks, policy entrepreneurs, etc.) tend to be the weaker players in the policy process. This is important.

Of particular use are tables 3 (page 130) and 4 (135) which list a number of useful advocacy activities for different cases (contexts) and audiences.

And most important of all, there is an actual template to plan a campaign/strategy; something that is often missing from most manuals or guidebooks.

For more information on this and other work by Young and Quinn you can visit the International Centre for Policy Advocacy.