The Science of Persuasion

The Science of Persuasion

The biweekly ‘So What?’ guide highlights advice, events, and tips — mostly from the advocacy and evaluation worlds, selected by the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program.

How do you engage supporters?

The Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University seeks to “advance the field of social impact by educating and inspiring marketers, communicators, fundraisers, and journalists” to work together. So I guess as evaluators we are sorta crashing the party. But we were intrigued by a new CSIC publication on Altruism, Empathy, and Efficacy: The Science Behind Engaging Supporters. They draw on recent research to challenge our assumptions about how our brains work and how we are persuaded to donate funds or support a cause. And for the less-easily-persuaded: check out this one-hour webinar summarizing the brief.

On the breakfast menu: contribution analysis

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for APEP’s upcoming 8:15 am breakfast on February 23rd, featuring Robin Kane and Carlisle Levine discussing their experience using contribution analysis in policy evaluation. For those of us who like a good (and credible) story about how change happens in the messy world of policy advocacy, contribution analysis can be a handy tool. As Robin, Carlisle, and their evaluator buds Carlyn Orians and Claire Reinelt note in their co-authored Center for Evaluation Innovation brief, contribution analysis is “methodologically neutral.” Intrigued? RSVP here. We don’t want any leftover pastries. And remember that the entrance to our new offices is at the corner of 24th and N streets NW in the realtor-defined West End of Washington, DC.

Er, what’s contribution analysis?

Glad you asked! Contribution analysis is an approach developed by John Mayne to help answer knotty questions like “how much of a difference did this initiative make?” and “would the same outcome have occurred even without this initiative?” — that is questions of contribution. The evaluand’s theory of change plays a starring role in an iterative process of investigating whether the evidence supports the hypothesized links in the theory and considering alternative explanations. It is well-suited for complex contexts where multiple factors influence an outcome (oh, the many possibilities!). One application that caught our eye: evaluating the impact of research on policy. Check out this recent example, which makes a nice contribution (wink) to good practice standards for using contribution analysis.