Tools and Tips for Implementing Contribution Analysis

Published: March 2021

Type: Publication

A quick guide for practitioners

Headshot, Laura Hopkins

Four lessons learnt from applying contribution analysis in policy and advocacy settings 

Contribution analysis is a method that can used for advocacy impact evaluation, assessing the contribution of an advocacy effort to an observed outcome (e.g., policy change). While other publications detail the approach and its application to an advocacy context, this brief offers practical tips on how to manage the process, especially in light of time and resource constraints.

Author Laura Hopkins leads Itad’s work on policy and advocacy evaluation. In this brief, she shares her reflections from five recent projects that used contribution analysis.

Introduction

Evaluating the impact of advocacy is a tricky business. Attempting to unpick how and why a particular campaign, organization, or group of actors played a meaningful role in achieving a policy outcome is complex. For example, some decision-makers avoid crediting outsider influence when describing their motivations for making a change, which makes it difficult to know if it was a particular paper or conversation that helped. In reality, it is usually a multitude of factors that contribute in different ways and at different times. This is where contribution analysis comes in. 

Contribution analysis does not seek to ‘prove’ the role of a particular actor or set of actors in bringing about change, but instead to develop a plausible, credible evidence-based narrative to answer causal questions about their influence.1 

In the brief Contribution Analysis in Policy Work: Assessing Advocacy’s Influence, evaluators Robin Kane, Carlisle Levine, Carlyn Orians, and Claire Reinelt discuss the relevance of contribution analysis to policy settings. They outline the six-step methodology and show how it applies to advocacy efforts. 

This learning brief builds on that work to offer practical lessons on applying contribution analysis to advocacy impact evaluations. It focuses on lessons learned and practical management of the approach. 

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