Political will “exists when a sufficient set of decision makers with a common understanding of a particular problem on the formal agenda is committed to supporting a commonly perceived, potentially effective policy solution”. 14 According to Post et al. 14, this complex, multifactorial phenomenon is comprised of three factors, which help conceptualize political will:
a) the distribution of preferences of policymakers (i.e. what are the preferences of acting politicians and will others accept the policies);
b) the authority, capacity, and legitimacy of key decision makers or reformers (i.e. political will is only strong if political power and resources are available); and
c) commitment to preferences (i.e. how a policymaker stands up for his/her beliefs; how resources and other efforts are allocated; what incentives/disincentives are provided to the policymaker for adopting a position).
The Breastfeeding Gear Model (BFGM) posits that the Political Will Gear results when advocacy is strong enough to generate momentum that elicits political commitment from policy makers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. In turn, strong political will is needed to enact legislation and policies to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.6 Only when expressed commitment - “verbal declarations of support for an issue by high-level, influential political leaders”, institutional commitment - policies and organizational infrastructure, and budgetary commitment- monies have been allocated towards a particular cause are all present is there full and complete political commitment towards a cause, such as breastfeeding.10
Measuring political will is complex and indirect, typically by examining the political commitment of decision makers. While political commitment is comprised of “expressed commitment”, “institutional commitment” and “budgetary commitment”10, these reflect separate gears within the BFGM corresponding to “political will”, “legislation and policies”, and “funding & resources” respectively. Thus, measuring political will for the BFGM consists of evaluating the level of expressed commitment policymakers have towards scaling-up breastfeeding.
The theme for the Political Will Gear measures expressed commitment by the government to protect, promote and support breastfeeding scaling up efforts. This one theme, expressed commitment, is assessed by three benchmarks.
All benchmarks are referenced to “the past year” unless otherwise noted.
This benchmark assesses whether there has been any public expression of commitment or promise by at least two government officials to move forward with implementing breastfeeding activities. High level political officials can be within federal ad/or state government.
“Public expression” refers to verbally expressing commitment to furthering breastfeeding activities to the public and it captures substantial media attention.
“High level political official” can be someone within the federal and/or state government with the capacity to influence policy decisions at the national levels including the country leader, first lady/spouse, policy makers etc.
“Breastfeeding action” refers to activities that protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
Possible data sources: Media data sources may be the best source to evaluate this benchmark. Media sources can include social media announcements or articles (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), newspaper articles, radio or TV stories, transcripts, etc.
How to score: The scoring for this benchmark reflects the number of times high level political officials have expressed their commitment to breastfeeding action within past year.
Description: An enabling environment that promotes breastfeeding is essential to successful scaling up of breastfeeding. This enabling environment refers to an atmosphere that encourages breastfeeding and discourages alternative feeding methods. This benchmark assesses whether national government initiatives (such as agenda setting, policy development and program(s) support events) have been implemented to foster an enabling environment for successful scaling up of breastfeeding programs. Government led initiatives can cross multiple sectors including training, legislation, promotion, etc...
Possible data sources: To assess this benchmark, interviews with government sources familiar with breastfeeding or infant/young child feeding initiatives can generate the information needed to score this benchmark. Written reports, guides, program descriptions from government agencies and NGOs working in maternal and child nutrition can also provide valid information to assess this benchmark. Any written materials need to be linked to initiatives that have been started within the past year.
How to score: The scoring of this benchmark reflects the level of implementation and the quality of the enabling environment in the past year.
Description: This benchmark assesses whether there is an individual within the government (which includes all individuals working within the government regardless of being elected, appointed, or hired on a temporary basis) who has been the driving force behind promoting, developing, or designing breastfeeding policy.
Promoting means introducing and supporting the creation of breastfeeding policy.
Developing refers to the active involvement in the generation of a breastfeeding policy. Designing refers to the active involvement in the writing of the breastfeeding policy.
Data sources: To assess this benchmark, interviews with government sources familiar with breastfeeding or infant/young child feeding initiatives can generate the information needed to score this benchmark. Written reports, guides, program descriptions from government agencies and NGOs working in maternal and child nutrition can also provide valid information to assess this benchmark.
How to score:
The scoring for this benchmark reflects the existence and the level of influence a government individual or a collective group of individuals has in promoting, developing, or designing breastfeeding policy. To assess this, map all the individuals working on the breastfeeding policy. Then, map all the activities they undertook towards promoting, developing or designing the policy.
Minimally influential means the individual or a collective group of individuals has had only a little impact on the promotion, development, or design of breastfeeding policy over the past year. In this situation, breastfeeding policy is being promoted, but it hasn’t been developed.
Partially influential means the individual or a collective group of individuals has had more impact on the promotion, development, or design of breastfeeding policy over the past year. In this situation, breastfeeding policy has been promoted and developed but not implemented.
Strongly influential means the individual or a collective group of individuals has had a strong impact on the promotion, development, or design of breastfeeding policy over the past year. In this situation, the breastfeeding policy has been promoted, developed and implemented.