A good policy-influencing objective should be clear about why the changes you are proposing are important, who they affect, what needs to be done about it and where you stand in relation to others who are also trying to bring about change.
In the spirit of doing no harm, it is useful to insert a final check to identify types of action that would be unhelpful in resolving the problem, and to consider possible incoherence and conflicting aims across the whole range of work you might be involved in.
If the policy problem you are working on has distributed capacities, then working in coalition will be crucial throughout the engagement process.
Coalitions tend to be held together better by a commitment to common values rather than by tightly defined, specific objectives. In fact, coalitions can fall apart if they do not allow for sufficient ambiguity to cater for different interests.
This will probably mean your initial specification of the objective for the coalition should be quite broad, leaving room for each of the different coalition partners to formulate sub-objectives that better reflect their particular goals.
Understanding this coalition (which may be made up of a mix of stakeholders with short- and longer-term aims) will be a core part of your theory of change and communications strategy.
Terminology – objectives and outcomes
ROMA tries to simplify what can be a very complex set of terms, referring to the objective of policy influence that will lead to outcomes for the people you are trying to help. Broadly, objectives are set out in terms of actions and described as ‘immediate’, ‘short-term’ or ‘long-term’, and outcomes are set out in terms of the results they generate and described as ‘intermediate’ and either ‘final’ or ‘longer-term’.
Checking the forces for and against change
Having defined the initial specification of your policy-influencing objective, identifying the potential barriers and enablers of change helps you target that objective in more detail. A force field diagram (as devised by the sociologist Kurt Lewin in 1951) is a simple diagram that can be drawn up on a large piece of paper in four steps:
- Write the policy-influencing objective in the middle of the page.
- Identify the forces for or against change. Refer to any previous analysis you have done, such as your ‘five whys’ or fishbone diagram. You do not have to go through each individual stakeholder on the map: it is better to identify the broad forces first and then work out whether they need to be broken down any further. All the forces in support of change are listed on the left (driving the change forward); all those against change are listed on the right. Sticky notes are helpful.
- Organise the forces around common themes and work out the strength of each one, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being weak and 5 being strong). The chart may look quite unbalanced at this stage, and some of the forces may be linked to each other (see Figure 5 below).
- To further refine the diagram, use a similar 1-to-5 scale to work out the strength of your influence on each of the forces. Adding the numbers together will give you an indication of how easy or difficult it will be to bring about change (see the case study at the end of this section for a fully worked example).
Figure 5: A force field analysis
Doing a force field analysis helps you reflect on whether your influencing objective is correctly specified and whether you should be focusing your efforts where you have a high degree of influence. Ensure you consider what others are doing, to avoid duplication of effort.