Understand which outcomes you are seeking
Having set out an initial objective for policy influence, it is important to push your thinking further ahead and consider the final outcomes you are seeking. In the context of an intervention seeking to influence policy, the outcome – in the simplest sense – is policy change. It is important to remember, however, that policy change is also a means to achieving an ultimate goal – such as better education, better public health, lower poverty or fewer deaths from curable diseases.
The ultimate goal will take a long time to achieve. So, in the process of working towards that goal, it is sensible also to focus on more immediate objectives and intermediate outcomes that are produced by the strategies and interventions chosen.
There are many different types of outcome we can look for that will tell us whether our interventions are having the desired effect. This may appear to complicate the task, but in fact it simplifies things by narrowing down where you need to look for outcomes.
We suggest nine possible outcomes to align with each stakeholder or group of stakeholders. For each stakeholder, consider which of the nine outcomes in Table 2 need to be addressed. Focus only on the top three priorities for each stakeholder; any more than that will become confusing.
The results around these outcomes will help you build a holistic picture of how an intervention is affecting the system with which you are engaging. It will help you focus on the smaller, incremental changes that are fundamental steps for longer-term, sustainable change.
It also helps you identify informal changes (e.g. outcomes 1 and 4) and formal changes (e.g. 5, 6 and 7); indirect (e.g. 2, 3 and 8) as well as direct influence (4, 5 and 6); and change at the level of systems (e.g. 3 and 8) as well as individuals (1, 4 and 7).
Not all of these will be relevant for every intervention. For instance, public opinion will be important only for interventions that rely on mobilising the public to exert pressure through the mass media. Likewise, capacity and engagement of other actors will be important to measure only if your strategy relies on indirect influence, for example through developing the enabling environment for civil society to work more equitably with parliamentarians.
Identify the incremental changes towards those outcomes
As noted in the Introduction, ROMA is an OM-based approach. This is centred on two key ideas: 1) that change occurs mainly through a series of small, incremental steps; and 2) that sustainable change comes about as a result of changes in people’s behaviours, not just what they produce. Detailed information on OM can be found on the OM Learning Community.
OM defines three types of sustainable behaviour change. These are behaviours we would:
- expect to see – key actors demonstrate early positive responses and initial engagement with the idea of change or the issue;
- like to see – key actors are showing signs that the messages are being taken on board and are proactively changing the way things are done;
- love to see – key actors display deep transformations in behaviour that demonstrate that the idea of change has been deeply internalised and will be sustainable in the long term.
Having decided which outcomes you are seeking for each stakeholder or group of stakeholders, it may be helpful to record these sets of behaviours in a table form, setting out who the stakeholder groups are, what their priority outcomes are and – for each priority outcome – what specific behaviours you might expect, like and love to see. Table 5 in chapter 2, a case study from a project with a large non-government organisation, shows what such a table might look like.
There are two points to note. First, while this table encourages you to look for incremental changes, radical change is possible. It is important to be constantly on the look-out for opportunities to push for significant change or to take advantage of opportunities when policy processes may suddenly become receptive to new evidence or ideas. These are more likely to happen after a shock or crisis, when a new party/regime/leader takes office and where levels of complexity and uncertainty are subsequently relatively high. However, the same circumstances can mean any change achieved may be short-lived and reversed.
Second, a backlash can be a positive sign that people or organisations are engaging with your message about the need for change, particularly where there are vested interests in keeping things as they are.