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Measuring the Impact of Advocacy - GSEI and Bipartisan Policy Center Co-Host Roundtable

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By Sophia Wood (SFS'17)

Do you suffer from “dashboard fatigue?” It’s a malady common to the world of measuring policy advocacy, according to the more than 30 public policy officials who gathered for a roundtable discussion hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business on October 5, 2016.

Advocating for legislative and regulatory change during at a time of political and policy uncertainty can be highly challenging.  During the discussion, participants from diverse corporate, nonprofit, academic and foundation backgrounds addressed various topics that define the long game – influencing and educating policy makers, harnessing public pressure, gauging strategic and leadership capacity and building coalitions for success.

The experienced advocacy professionals present shared their mutual concerns, such as the struggle to prove the value of choosing not to act, or to understand how their messages are being received and then used by legislators. Despite their differences, they agreed about the prevalence of “dashboard fatigue,” an overemphasis on performance indicators that are not necessarily correlated with success, a common issue when it comes to measuring the impact of policy advocacy.

            “We heard from participants that such difficulties can cause people within the advocacy field to become frustrated or burned out and result in high turnover, a significant issue when so much in advocacy comes down to interpersonal interactions between public policy experts and lawmakers,” said Bill Novelli, Founder of GSEI. “In fact, the human aspect of advocacy was brought up continuously throughout the discussion as it is vital to focusing the narrative and emphasizing the micro-level impacts of policy change that a lawmaker can relate to his or her own constituency.”

            The participants emphasized the need for benchmarking, qualitative data, and a team that knows how to interpret the numbers they collect. The advocates at the roundtable held a frank and honest discussion on the difficult balance between public policy and their operations in the current political climate. Many participants articulated a desire to continue the conversation; GSEI and the Bi-Partisan Policy Center will be exploring future opportunities for collaboration on this timely and important topic. 

To read the complete proceedings of this event, click here.