So What?

How to Advocate with Impact

January 6, 2017  • Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program

The biweekly “So What” guide highlights advice, events, and tips – mostly from the advocacy and evaluation worlds, lovingly selected (and lightly snarked) by the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program. We’re a consulting practice at the Aspen Institute that partners with foundations, nonprofit organizations, and individual funders to help them strengthen their efforts to bring about positive change in society.

Food for thought and eating, even

For those whose New Year’s resolution involves waking up earlier and learning more, we have you covered. On January 12 from 8:15 to 9:45, APEP will host the first “evaluation breakfast” of 2017. Our delectable guests, Chris Stalker of Oxfam along with Josh Joseph and Michele Lempa of the Pew Charitable Trusts, will take us on a journey into their world of internal evaluation and organizational politics.

All this, plus coffee and pastries. Fruit, even. C’mon – wake up with us and join the conversation! Learn more and sign up.

A middle ground between empathy and rationality may be the best moral guide.

Finding the balance between the head and the heart

Philanthropists are increasingly asked to choose between head and heart. The dilemma pits the data-driven, outcome-oriented technocrats against the bleeding-heart, deontologically driven empathizers. Donors from the Silicon Valley world of fast numbers and quick fixes are driving some Bay-area nonprofits to attempt to negotiate the divide of experiences and worlds. As the president of the Hadar Institute suggests, a middle ground between empathy and rationality may be the best moral guide for those who want to understand the problem but also see the big picture.

Advocacy can be hard (for the administration) to resist

Many advocates for progressive (and some conservative) causes are still a bit shell-shocked as Inauguration weekend draws near. But as people begin to look to the future they’re increasingly turning their attention to advocating at the congressional level. The TCC Group offers strictly nonpartisan support and alternatives through this brief on litigation-based strategies and a useful overview of what makes a good campaign – focused especially on state-level advocacy.

To learn more about the tools and services of the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program, visit

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