One of the briefings I’ve been developing for our new influencing course (see yesterday’s intro) is a guide to help people navigate the plethora of toolkits on influencing. Here’s my list – with a request for comments and additions.
My overall impression (although this may just reflect my Oxfam background) is that there are loads of online guides to ‘outsider’ campaigning, and for ‘insider’ campaigning by NGOs. There is much less (at least in the public domain – which is what I’m restricting this guide to) aimed at influencers within the system, e.g. a UN, Red Cross or bilateral/multilateral leader trying to hone their influencing strategies at national or regional level. So anything in that latter area, especially if it combines insider and outsider approaches, particularly welcome. Over to you.
Summary of Strengths/Focus of each Toolkit (links below)
- Oxfam for combined insider/outsider influencing, especially for public influencing
- Oxfam/Oxford Policy Management for a more rigorous approach to analysis → strategy, especially for long-term development
- World Vision for rapid response
- Crisis Action for building campaign coalitions
- WaterAid for WASH/political context analysis
- Center for Evaluation Innovation for practicality and MEL-ability of strategies
- Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation for insider reformers with high level backing
- Everyday Political Analysis for stripped-back political analysis → quick assessment and decisions for insider reformers.
- Power Cube for comprehensive power analysis
- Rao and Kelleher for gender equity/social norms
- CCHN Field Manual for humanitarian negotiation/influencing
More Detail below
Oxfam Influencing for Impact Guide: How to Deliver Effective Influencing Strategies (2020, 81 pages)
Rough Description: Oxfam’s guide covers the steps for developing and implementing an influencing strategy as part of a programme or specific campaign. It covers planning the process; designing the strategy; its implementation and ongoing management. Throughout it focusses on being able to adapt strategies to new information or events, how to ensure they are gender sensitive and follow feminist principles, and how to identify and manage risks.
Strengths: Good sections on problem definition, context analysis, power (especially gender power analyses) and stakeholder mapping, and theories of change. As an INGO toolkit, strong on combined insider/outsider strategies, shifting norms, public messaging and gender equity. Lots of practical checklists to prompt the right questions.
Weaknesses: Weaker on ‘insider’ reform ideas, such as understanding political economy and constraints, or internal reform processes; stronger focus on external influencing (eg of states), rather than eg influencing donors, building reform coalitions etc. Little on public authorities beyond state, private sector and civil society.
Rough Description: Rigorously sets out how to move from Political Economy Analysis → Strategy → Operations, while conducting ongoing monitoring of the political economy
Strengths: The most comprehensive, combining INGO experience and thinktank rigour. Lots of examples, especially from experience in Myanmar, but also Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and elsewhere (which means it doesn’t get too theoretical). Plenty of practical advice on how to put teams together, stakeholder and process maps (with examples). The best thing out there, in our opinion.
Weaknesses: 58 pages and no Executive Summary!
World Vision Good Enough Context Analysis for Rapid Response (2016)
Rough Description: ‘provides a macro-level analysis of a country or a specific region during or in anticipation of a crisis. GECARR is designed to be an inter-agency tool and it’s flexible, so that can be used in unpredictable and conflict-prone contexts.’ Suggests a two-week process to move from analysis to strategy, involving about 30 people at local/national level.
Strengths: Highly practical and tested (summary of lessons of first 30 GECARRs here) in a variety of very challenging contexts by the biggest INGO, with case studies and guides on how to adapt ‘good enough context analysis’ in rapid response, peace-building/conflict settings and fragile contexts, with case studies from Burundi, Colombia and DRC.
Weaknesses: Website is hard to navigate, so I’ve included as many links as possible here! Lots of fragmented one and two pagers, but hard to find the core methodology.
Crisis Action’s Creative Coalitions Handbook (online manual, hard to determine how many pages!)
Rough Description: Crisis Action’s approach was born of the failure of past anti-war movements. It has an interesting theory of change as Crisis Action always aims to remain behind the scenes and focus on convening and brokering others to work towards desired changes. This involves assembling ‘opt-in’ coalitions of actors and organisations with the right skills, connections and motivations to see a strategy through. The handbook has several strong case studies (including one on turning a failure into a win) that focus on how multiple tactics can build towards objectives or an overall goal. Crisis Action’s work also tends to be at a global level, takes advantage of political timetables and critical junctures, and constantly scouts for opportune moments to influence senior powerholders.
Strengths: Convening and brokering coalitions; responding to windows of opportunity, tops for convening and brokering
Weaknesses: Only covers coalition-building, not longer-term change processes; insider influencing. More on process (how to manage coalitions) than eg how to do political economy analysis
Rough Description: 28 page v practical guide to analysis within WaterAid’s sector. 4 sections: PEA for Country Strategy; Sector Strategy; Tactics and ‘Everyday PEA’, borrowing from the Birmingham University framework (below)
Strengths: relatively short and practical, covers both formal power, power behind the scenes and the power of cultural norms (v. important in WASH). Lots of good questions to ask and suggested discussion points, without being too prescriptive.
Weaknesses: The bridge to strategy stops short of discussing actual tactics, especially anything like public comms.
Rough Description: ‘a simple one-page tool for thinking about the theories of change that underlie public policy advocacy strategies.’ (except that it’s 16 pages! 😉). Does this by suggesting ‘six questions that advocates, and funders working with advocates, can work through to better articulate their theories of change’. Handy for leaders in that it suggests questions to ask when evaluating a proposed strategy
Strengths: v practical, with a focus on making influencing strategies amenable to monitoring, evaluation and learning; focus on differentiating audiences.
Weaknesses: Starts downstream from initial context analysis, which is taken as a given. Instead, helps people critique and sharpen their existing strategy.
n.b. I think the diagram above is what they mean by their one pager – capturing a range of possible strategies on a 2×2 of outcomes v audience.
‘Pracademic’ (Practitioner Academic) Toolkits
Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), Harvard Kennedy School
Rough Description: Long-term programme designed and implemented by a team at the Harvard Kennedy School – ‘a step-by-step approach which helps you break down your problems into its root causes, identify entry points, search for possible solutions, take action, reflect upon what you have learned, adapt and then act again.’
Strengths: One of the strongest frameworks on understanding and digging into problems and how to solve them, primarily aimed at reform teams within developing country governments.
Weaknesses: Assumes buy-in from those in power – very much an insider reform exercise. A purely internal exercise, nothing on public campaigning and advocacy.
Everyday Political Analysis, Developmental Leadership Programme (2016)
Rough Description: ‘a stripped-back political analysis framework designed to help frontline development practitioners make quick but politically-informed decisions’. Digs into two broad questions: Understanding interests, and assessing the space and capacity people have to bring about change.
Strengths: very good for insider analysis. Only 7 pages!
Weaknesses: little to say on combined insider-outsider strategies (not surprising as it’s primarily designed for donors) Nothing on social norms, shifting narratives etc – mainly interested in hard power, whether formal or behind the scenes
Power Cube, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex
Rough Description: ‘brings together a number of resources for understanding power relations in efforts to bring about social change.’ Ten years on from the original paper, there are now lots of resources and case studies, built around the central tool of the power cube.
Strengths: tested out in many different contexts – you can probably find something relevant to you
Weaknesses: some people find it unnecessarily complicated!
Rao and Kelleher, Domains and Mechanisms for Change
Rough Description: Based on decades of work promoting gender equity, this framework is particularly useful when trying to influence ‘invisible power’ areas such as social norms (not just on gender)
Strengths: Manages to help you think through and link work on formal domains such as legislation and policy, with that on ‘informal’ domains such as social norms on gender, sexuality etc. Also brings together work at an individual level (eg consciousness raising) and societal (norms)
Weaknesses: Does not really touch on political economy, incentives/constraints for decision makers etc
Rough Description: 400 page monster manual. Understandably focuses on insider strategies, given focus on negotiation, but has useful sections on context analysis, building trust, analysing interests and motives and stakeholder mapping>
Strengths: very much written from inside the humanitarian system, with a wealth of case studies and practical tips
Weaknesses: limited to insider strategies and negotiations
So over to you to improve, with a reminder of the audience – senior leaders in Humanitarian Country Teams and UN Country Teams, looking to sharpen their influencing strategies, whether within the aid sector or beyond – eg national governments and regional bodies.