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Engaging Boards and Trustees in Strategic Learning: A Toolkit

January 17, 2019

Effecting social change in a rapidly changing political environment and an increasingly interconnected world requires foundations to adopt a learning orientation. Without continuous learning, grantmakers—and thus boards and trustees—are unaware about what is working where, with whom, and why, as well as what changes or refinements are needed in order to achieve the grantmakers' desired results.This toolkit provides a fresh set of resources for grantmaker CEOs, evaluation staff, and senior leaders to use to engage their boards and trustees in conversations about the importance of strategic learning in their decision-making and deliberation processes.

Facilitating Intentional Group Learning: A Practical Guide to 21 Learning Activites

January 9, 2017

Many of today's social sector organizations are searching for ways to be more nimble, adaptive, and responsive, and they are looking to "learning" as a means for responding to myriad competing demands and shifting priorities and challenges. In particular, a range of publications and conferences have shown an interest in learning as a tool for social change. For example, in 2005, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) reminded us that "Learning is about continual reflection—asking and answering key questions you need to know to make smarter decisions. It's about engaging staff, the board, and grantees in reflective discussion of what works (and what doesn't) to advance your organization's mission and goals" (p. 2).Others of us, including the Center for Evaluation Innovation, Innovation Network, Grantmakers in Health, Grantmakers in Education, Grantcraft, Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University, Council on Foundations, Center for Effective Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, and a variety of foundations, corporate philanthropic organizations, and consultants, have made learning a cornerstone of our work. Many such organizations have consistently communicated the importance of being a learning organization, supporting strategic learning through evaluation and other forms of data collection, and forging intentional connections between strategy, evaluation, and learning.While it is clear that the topic of learning remains of great importance to the social sector, many organizations, including those in the public and private sectors, seem to be stuck on operationalizing what it means to engage in and support intentional learning in their organizations. We hope this guide will help a wide array of professionals better understand how and when to use group learning activities to intentionally support and facilitate continuous learning through reflection and dialogue.

Guide To Trend Mapping

August 19, 2016

A trend map is a visual depiction of relevant trends influencing the system around a given topic. Developing a trend map can help a group deepen their understanding of an issue through exploring related history, identifying key external factors, and tracking shifts in social and cultural norms. This guide will walk you through a feasibility assessment as well as how to prepare for and facilitate a trend mapping activity.

The Readiness for Organizational Learning and Evaluation (ROLE) Instrument

May 19, 2016

This tool is designed to help an organization determine its level of readiness for implementing organizational learning and evaluation practices and processes that support it. The instrument's results can be used to: 1. Identify the existence of learning organization characteristics; 2. Diagnose interest in conducting evaluation that facilitates organizational learning; 3. Identify areas of strength to leverage evaluative inquiry processes; 4. Identify areas in need of organizational change and development. The organization may use the results to focus its efforts on improving or further strengthening areas that will lead to greater individual, team, and organizational learning.

Evaluating Complexity: Propositions for Improving Practice

November 11, 2014

This practice brief is intended to bring together knowledge about systems change, complexity, and evaluation in a way that clarifies and describes how the practice of evaluation needs to evolve to better serve the social sector.

Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact: Assessing Progress and Impact

May 5, 2014

As collective impact has gained traction across the globe, demand has grown for an effective approach to evaluating collective impact initiatives that meets the needs of various interested parties. Collective impact practitioners seek timely, high-quality data that enables reflection and informs strategic and tactical decision making. Funders and other supporters require an approach to performance measurement and evaluation that can offer evidence of progress toward the initiative's goals at different points along the collective impact journey. This three part series responds to these needs by offering practitioners, funders, and evaluators a way to think about, plan for, and implement different performance measurement and evaluation activities.

Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact Supplement: Sample Questions, Outcomes and Indicators

May 5, 2014

As collective impact has gained traction across the globe, demand has grown for an effective approach to evaluating collective impact initiatives that meets the needs of various interested parties. Collective impact practitioners seek timely, high-quality data that enables reflection and informs strategic and tactical decision making. Funders and other supporters require an approach to performance measurement and evaluation that can offer evidence of progress toward the initiative's goals at different points along the collective impact journey. This three part series responds to these needs by offering practitioners, funders, and evaluators a way to think about, plan for, and implement different performance measurement and evaluation activities.

Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact: Learning and Evaluation in the Collective Impact Context

May 5, 2014

As collective impact has gained traction across the globe, demand has grown for an effective approach to evaluating collective impact initiatives that meets the needs of various interested parties. Collective impact practitioners seek timely, high-quality data that enables reflection and informs strategic and tactical decision making. Funders and other supporters require an approach to performance measurement and evaluation that can offer evidence of progress toward the initiative's goals at different points along the collective impact journey. This three-part report responds to these needs by offering practitioners, funders, and evaluators a way to think about, plan for, and implement different performance measurement and evaluation activities.

Two Decades of Investment in Substance-Use Prevention and Treatment

March 17, 2014

This FSG report assesses two decades of investment by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs in the United States. Over this time, the foundation spent nearly $700 million in pursuit of this goal, representing the largest investment in substance use prevention and treatment ever made by a nonprofit, philanthropic funder.This retrospective assessment explores the evolution of the foundation's substance-use strategies and goals, examines what RWJF achieved as a result of these efforts, and identifies strengths and challenges of the foundation's approach.

Next Generation Evaluation: Embracing Complexity, Connectivity, and Change

September 1, 2013

This Learning Brief draws from literature and research, as well as more than a dozen interviews with foundation leaders, evaluation practitioners, and social sector thought leaders, with the intention of starting the conversation in the field around Next Generation Evaluation characteristics and approaches.

Building a Strategic Learning and Evaluation System for Your Organization

August 20, 2013

The current state of evaluation in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors points to the need for a more strategic approach to evaluation. In this guide, we provide a framework and set of practices that can help organizations be more systematic, coordinated, and intentional about what to evaluate, when, why, with whom, and with what resources.

Markers that Matter: Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education

July 1, 2013

This new report developed by FSG with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, distills a set of 48 early childhood indicators that reflect healthy development of young children. The report also highlights 10 emerging themes, areas that are not sufficiently addressed by existing indicators and where further inquiry is needed.