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How to measure the progress and impact of champion building strategies

Our final champion building blog looks at how to measure the progress and impact of champions against your advocacy goals.


Champion building seeks to engage and support individuals to act as advocates to drive a social issue and influence policymakers. So far in this series, we have identified how to select potential champions, including the key traits to look out for and explored how to develop lasting relationships by tailoring support to different contexts.

In this final blog, we are bringing all our learnings together to discuss how to monitor the impact of champion building strategies against your advocacy goals.

Read all our champion building blogs and the full report here

Setting expectations

It is important to be realistic about when you expect change to happen. Meaningful policy change rarely happens overnight so it’s very unlikely to see an impact from your champion building in the short term.

A long-term view of the impact of champion building activities is key.

We have summarised some expected results from champion building activities at different stages below.

Timescale of change What results an effective programme might expect to see Commentary
Short term (under one year) Few if any results Early focus is likely to be on establishing and building relationships, rather than on external results.
Medium term (one to three years) Early results Some early signs of champions’ effectiveness may be available, especially in relation to how they engage with those closest to them – but again this is likely to be too soon to meaningfully validate the overall investment.
Long term (four-plus years) Evidence of the investment paying off More meaningful results should be apparent over this timescale, with contribution to more systemic change evident – and the absence of evidence of this would be problematic.
Very long term (10+ years) Increased effectiveness and independent action If healthy and meaningful relationships have been established (and where a very long-term change horizon is relevant) then expect to see a flourishing engagement between mutually effective partners.

Champion building can be described as a low control/high uncertainty intervention, meaning that any strategy to measure progress will have to be fluid and adaptable to the changing social and political context.

When examining existing literature around champion building, we found that different sources suggest undertaking monthly, quarterly or biannual check-ins where updated information is reviewed and considered. Others suggest holding more substantive reviews annually.

Ideally, however, an M&E approach will use a mix of these. For example, the European Parliamentary Forum  (a network of Members of Parliament throughout Europe committed to protecting sexual and reproductive rights) undertakes systematic monitoring of its programmes on an ongoing basis, and supplements this with regularly commissioned, external program-wide evaluations conducted every few years.

Read more on our case study on the European Parliamentary Forum in the full report, or get in touch to discuss further.

Elements of monitoring frameworks

Monitoring frameworks typically track some combination of the following seven elements, with most tracking between two to three elements at a time – anything more becomes too unwieldy.

1. Actions

Tracking verifiable actions provides objective measures, in contrast to some of the other assessments which may be more subjective.

2. Quality of relationships

Elements of some frameworks address the quality of the relationship between the organisation and the champion.  Save the Children’s champions toolkit, for example, recommends assessing the quality of support a champion is receiving.

3. Influence

The level of influence of those involved in a programme is widely assessed. In some cases, frameworks do not include the level of influence as a measure but note that factoring it in could allow a more meaningful champion assessment.

4. Issue alignment

Assessing a champion’s position on the relevant issue(s) and how it evolves features in several monitoring frameworks and discussions of champion monitoring.

5. Skills/capacities

There are some references in champion building literature to tracking areas relating to skills, knowledge, and leadership capacity.

6. Networking relationships

Multiple sources stress the importance of connections and relationships beyond the organisational level, in particular the value of mapping network relationships and their evolution.

7. Signs of increased political will

Political will can be defined as the combination of 1) an opinion about a particular issue, 2) the intensity of that opinion, and 3) the degree of salience or importance of an issue. It is expressed in a willingness to invest personal capital in support of change and in “the transformation people experience in how they feel ‘called’ to lead.”

Tracking champion actions

It’s important to keep things as simple as possible, not least because of the resources required to be robust in your monitoring. Of the seven elements, tracking champions’ actions was the most common measure and may be the obvious choice for many organisations.

However, existing frameworks typically stop at measuring and rating champions’ actions, not what those actions lead to. This may be because, in advocacy, the link to outcomes is not as straightforward as in other fields since individual champions are generally part of a much wider set of tactics.

This points to the need to supplement tracking approaches with more in-depth, qualitative assessments of the dynamics of change, such as evaluations that explore how different actors and factors have contributed (or not) to the desired impact.

That being said, we have developed a rating system to capture champion’s actions and demonstrate whether they are likely to translate into increased impact on policy change

Rating (likelihood of impact one to four) Explanation
One Has expressed support such as through signing on to a declaration of support.
Two Has taken low level action in support, for example in response to request to participate in an event.
Three Is proactive in undertaking advocacy such as asking questions in parliament.
Four Is showing leadership; this might be by generating media and political debate or requesting meetings with decision makers.

Tracking even this can still be time and resource-heavy, however, as it requires monitoring each champions’ activities. One solution would be to limit the number of champions being tracked. Our research suggests that tracking around 30 champions is manageable for a small organisation.

If there is organisational capacity, however, we suggest a more advanced approach that plots champions’ development against the criteria that represent their effectiveness ( influence, alignment, commitment, and capability) to see how near they are to meeting them. The idea is that you will then be able to track people’s ‘champion-ness’ over time and anticipate which champions may be better placed to influence a future policy change.

This approach would link to the proposed approach for identifying champions we outlined early in this series and facilitate tracking against a baseline established in planning.

An example of rating scales based on these would be:

Criterion Possible rating scale
Influence One: the relevant audience would not be influenced by them
Two: the relevant audience could potentially be influenced by them
Three: the relevant audience could be very influenced by them
Alignment One: against – has taken a counter stance on the issue
Two: leaning against – has indicated a position against the issue
Three: neutral – neither for nor against the issue
Four: supportive – has expressed support for the issue
Five: strongly supportive – is very closely aligned, including on policy detail
Capability One: not met – lacks some key skills and/or capacities
Two: partly met – has some gaps in skills and capacities
Three: fully met – has requisite skills and capacities

Measuring your champion building efforts will always be challenging no matter how much capacity or time you have to devote to M&E activities. It is essential to make the investment, though, to better understand the progress against your advocacy goals and to anticipate any adaptions needed in your approach.

We hope that the learnings from this blog and wider series have proven useful to you as a starting point when thinking about the right champion to engage given your goals and in understanding your impact.

If you are working with champions regularly or are simply interested in hearing more about the research findings, we’d love to hear from you!