Why Do(n’t) They Measure? Drivers and Barriers in Public Diplomacy Measurement and Evaluation

Principal Investigator:
Alexander Buhmann, CPD Research Fellow 2016-18

Measurement and evaluation (M&E) is key to (1) providing evidence for the impact of public diplomacy (PD), (2) staying ahead in competition over budgets, and (3) linking PD strategies and tactics clearly with general strategies in foreign affairs. In recent years M&E has become one of the central topics in the PD field. Much like in neighboring fields, such as public relations (PR), M&E is now an important area of exchange between academics and practitioners, opening up opportunities for mutual exchange and education. So far, the PD field has built much needed knowledge of best practices, models, tools, and measures in M&E. Furthermore, there is some critical commentary on common challenges in PD M&E such as (1) the difficulty of providing evidence for impact on long-term intangible objectives (such as relationships, reputation, or trust), (2) the lack of resources for performing sophisticated evaluation, (3) professionals’ lack of knowledge and skills in evaluation models and methods, and (4) the lack of interest and support from superior officials.

However, apart from anecdotal observations, we lack empirical evidence on the drivers and barriers when applying M&E in practice. What is the actual effect of the above challenges on the behavior of PD professionals? What is, for instance, the influence of budgeting or support from superiors? How important are budgeting and support compared to practitioners’ own attitude towards M&E when it comes to impact on actual M&E behavior? How strongly do practitioners’ knowledge and skills in M&E influence their M&E behavior compared to the above factors?

The goal of this project is to gain critical insights into the drivers and barriers of M&E-related behavior of practitioners in the PD domain. The project will contribute to advancing PD in several ways. First, it will provide a conceptual model that helps explain practitioners’ behavior in an applied area that, as Pahlavi (2007) stresses, is critical if PD wants to move towards a more important role in the international affairs arena. Second, it will generate empirical insights into the varying importance of the different factors that drive or hamper practitioners’ behavior in M&E. Third, the results will help academics and practitioners to better respond to current challenges in the field and develop effective programs and solutions to further advance M&E in PD.

Photo by Sonny Abesamis | CC BY 2.0