Policy engagement and influence: Rapid Outcome Mapping Approach

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The RAPID Outcome Mapping Approach (ROMA), "comprises a suite of tools that any organisation can use at any stage in their policy engagement process to improve how they diagnose the problem, understand the types of impact their work could have on policy-making, set realistic objectives for policy influence, develop a plan to achieve those objectives, monitor and learn from the progress they are making and reflect this learning back into their work.”

The toolkit provides guidance in three areas:

  • Diagnosing the problem – understanding root causes rather than symptoms, understanding why the problem persists, diagnosing complexity and uncertainty, and identifying stakeholders.
  • Developing an engagement strategy to influence policy – identifying realistic outcomes, identifying who or what is to be influenced, developing a theory of change, developing and implementing a communications strategy, and assessing the available capacity and resources.
  • Developing a monitoring and learning plan – defining information requirements, collecting and managing data, and making sense of data to improve decision-making.

The following tools provide a flavour of the ROMA approach:

Five whys technique. This starts with the initial problem, asking why it is a problem, why that explanation is a problem and so on five times. By the fifth ‘why’ there should be a depth of understanding that goes beyond the immediately apparent issues.

Influence and interest matrix. This maps stakeholders according to 1) their ability to influence the problem and 2) their interest or engagement with the problem. The matrix has four quadrants: stakeholders with high influence and high interest, stakeholders with high influence and low interest, stakeholders with low influence and high interest, and stakeholders with low influence and low interest. Location of stakeholders in the matrix helps identify with whom it is most productive to work and how.

Five questions for identifying systemic factors in the wider political and institutional environment. 1) Which branch of government holds the key to change? 2) Where and how does political debate occur? 3) What role do informal politics play? 4) Is there really capacity to make change happen? and 5) How do external forces influence change?

Four options for communicating. This differentiates between formal and informal engagement, as well as between working cooperatively with the decision-making system (‘inside’ track) and staying apart, which makes a more confrontational approach possible (‘outside’ track). Four communication strategies result: advising (formal, inside), advocacy (formal, outside), activism (informal, outside) and lobbying (informal, inside).

The ROMA approach is flexible in how the tools are combined and used, and open to constant reflection and learning.

It is a distillation of the extensive experience of the Research in Policy and Development (RAPID) programme of the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI). “Policy change can take many forms: while changes to legislation are often seen as the most concrete ways of making change happen, in fact public policy comprises many non-legislative issues, such as regulations, resource allocation and decisions about whose voices to include in debates or what evidence to base decisions on”. ROMA has a whole of systems approach that is scalable and based in part on constant learning in order to create improvements in policy engagement.

“ROMA is implemented with a mix of workshops, rapid reviews, detailed analysis and research and time spent on reflection and learning”. It is made for team leaders, researchers and practitioners in research and implementing organisations and it may prove useful for communication specialists, those who commission research as well as policy makers and analysts.

Reference: Young, J., Shaxson, L., Jones, H., Hearn, S., Datta, A. and Cassidy, C. (2014). Rapid Outcome Mapping Approach: A Guide to Policy Engagement and Influence. Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, UK. Online: https://i2s.anu.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/9011.pdf (1MB) and can also be found on the report's interactive website URL: https://www.odi.org/features/roma/home

Interactive website: https://www.odi.org/features/roma/home

Posted: August 2014

Last modified: September 2015