Bars Are for Pitchers, Not Pitching

In a world where work can’t start until a cat is ejected from someone’s keyboard, private in-person business meetings are as rare as carbon paper. But a chat behind (real) closed doors is something that should not be lost entirely to the mists of time.

In pre-pandemic 2019 I was an accidental witness to a job interview; an encounter that its very public setting – the lobby bar of a conference-center hotel – did little to improve.

In this piece for the American Evaluation Association’s daily blog, I distilled two lessons from the scene for independent evaluators and their clients. First, the consultant makes the best “pitch” in a get-to-know you meeting by providing the client with ideas that have value, not reciting her CV. And second, the philosophers need your bar stool, so, if you’re the client, find a better place to converse.

Prevail in Local Level Policy Change by Maintaining the Narrative Upper Hand

Even in the best of times, proposals to change local services – such as roads and schools – are often controversial. And this, of course, is far from the best of times. Opponents of specific public works projects find ready allies in residents who are unnerved by changes to the city or neighborhood status quo more broadly. This is especially true when an innovation (such as adding bike lanes and crosswalks) is identified by opponents as a threatening shift of entitlement from longstanding residents (such as people who drive cars) in favor of “outsiders” (bikers and pedestrians).

Local government is all about finding middle ground among residents with competing interests. But how is that process skewed in an era where social media aids in turbo-charging angry sentiments that previously were shared at the coffee shop or over the back fence?

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Politicians and Cow Manure: Voters Harmed by Corporate Polluters Urge Candidates to Take a Stand

From before the United States even existed, political actors sought to get the narrative upper hand. No less a figure than Paul Revere forged public opinion with this propaganda image about the Boston Massacre. The engraving (a print from which is in the collection of the Concord Museum) helped inflame New Englanders’ sentiments against London’s oppressive policies and helped push the colonies toward separation from England.

Forward to this century, opponents of sensible environmental regulation promote the narrative that it’s is anti-worker. In rural areas, they label candidates who promote management of natural resources as “anti-farmer,” all the while pushing the cost of industrial-scale pollution onto local communities that can ill afford it.

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Learning and Adapting on the Statewide Election Trail

Political campaigns were among the many activities of normal life upended by the sudden emergence of COVID-19 in the winter of 2020. State and local campaigns, which often turn on successful door-to-door voter contact, were particularly affected.

In a Talking Points Memo piece co-authored with David Shorr, an evaluation colleague and local elected official, I analyzed how the Wisconsin Democratic Party succeeded in getting out the vote with only weeks to go before critically important April 2020 elections.

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Grantee-led Evaluation for Better Learning

In this post for Center for Effective Philanthropy, my colleague David Shorr and I argue that advocacy organizations and their funders learn best when the advocates themselves are supported to measure progress on their highest-priority issues and concerns.

Focusing on what grantees want to learn helps ensure that measurement is consistently incorporated into advocacy grantees’ busy schedules, and that the information that’s obtained is actually used by grantees to adjust to their environments and course-correct when necessary.

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Welcome to Cog & Gear

A strong evaluation or measurement plan positions you to make the most of policy opportunities. It prepares you to better manage unforeseen challenges. And it helps you meet the information needs of your management, board, and funders efficiently, and with less stress.

A good measurement plan creates tools and systems that generate meaningful data, while respecting the limits of your staffing, technology, time, and budget.

I am fascinated with measuring change in advocacy fields, and creating tools that help organizers and advocates maximize the impact they can achieve with the resources at their disposal. I enjoy connecting with others who also love getting “under the hood” of advocacy and organizing work.

The goal of this blog is to share with you things that I’m learning that could increase your advocacy impact. I look forward to hearing from you the challenges that you are facing, and what tools and systems are helping you to excel.

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