Negotiating effectiveness: the politics of results in advocacy for development and its evaluation

Bodille Arensman

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


In this doctoral dissertation I analyse how advocacy effectiveness is given meaning in the practices of advocacy for development, and how this is affected by the politics of results in its evaluation. With advocacy gaining ever more ground in the development world, the issue of (measuring) effectiveness becomes increasingly relevant. Especially when realising that the pursuit and achievement of effectiveness in terms of structural change and development are political processes that require strategies such as advocacy. There is an assumption among NGOs and donors that advocacy will result in structural changes, thus increasing development effectiveness. However, actually proving advocacy effectiveness is difficult because structural changes in international development often take a very long time to develop, and involve many diverse stakeholders operating at multiple levels and across borders. Besides, advocacy outcomes are often intangible. It is even more complicated to establish the effectiveness of efforts to reach these outcomes. Meanwhile, development organisations are under growing pressure to prove their effectiveness. Effectiveness often boils down to the question of whether the intervention or organisation has succeeded in achieving legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of other stakeholders. This process of defining outcomes and effectiveness is profoundly political. I refer to this political process as the politics of results. In this doctoral dissertation I demonstrate that advocacy effectiveness is given meaning in human interactions and strategic practices, affected by a multidimensional politics of results in evaluation as negotiations around pursuing, negotiating, understanding and identifying effectiveness shape the processes. Current evaluation methods do not do enough justice to or support and accommodate the dynamic processes of advocacy. Advocacy evaluation therefore demands an approach that focuses on the strategic practices and practitioners acting strategically. This calls for a shift in thinking about effectiveness, away from the comfort zone of tools, methods and approaches that seek control, prediction,  measurability and visibility. A shift towards really focusing on the meaning of practices and processes including interactions, strategy making, decision making, organisational structures, roles, values, interests and considerations.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Hilhorst, D.J.M., Promotor
  • van Wessel, Margit, Co-promotor
Award date18 Jun 2018
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463438728
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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