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Evaluation and Learning at Foundations: A Field Guide

April 18, 2022

This brief grew out of conversations with evaluation and learning leaders working in foundations across the United States about both the value of evaluation and learning in philanthropy, and the challenges of implementing this function well across diverse institutional contexts. Our intent is to provide practical guidance that new and existing leaders can use to navigate their roles in support of more effective and equitable philanthropy. It is based on indepth case studies of the Irvine, Kauffman, and Kresge Foundations along with our own experience partnering with foundations on evaluation, strategy, and learning efforts.

Evaluators as Conduits and Supports for Foundation Learning

March 1, 2019

Evaluators play a critical role in supporting philanthropic learning, programming, and strategy, but evaluation and learning in philanthropy is often limited in ways that impede deeper resonance and impact. Most philanthropic evaluation is focused on the needs of individual foundations, knowledge sharing with the broader field is limited, and foundations struggle to integrate evaluation and learning as a management tool. This article makes the case that evaluators and funders can do more to build the collective capacity of evaluators working in philanthropy in order to enhance their contributions to community change. This article also examines the ways that evaluation in philanthropy is evolving, lays out root causes of its limitations, and looks at emerging tools, techniques, and lessons that showcase new ways evaluators and funders are working together to strengthen practice.

Being the Change: 12 Ways Foundations Are Transforming Themselves to Transform Their Impact

April 1, 2018

Many foundations are adopting new approaches for creating social change—approaches that aim to influence the actions and investments of the public and private sector, as well as address the complex conditions that hold social problems in place.Based on interviews with 114 practitioners representing 50 foundations and 8 philanthropic services organizations, Being the Change explores how foundations are applying their assets, knowledge, skills, networks, and people in new ways in order to create impact at scale and change systems.

Working Paper, Rents and Inefficiency in the Patent and Copyright System: Is There a Better Route?

August 1, 2016

This paper analyzes the evidence for rents due to the patent and copyright systems for financing innovation and creative work. It notes research suggesting that in both the patent and copyright system, the costs in the form of monopoly pricing and rent-seeking activity outweigh the benefits. It then proposes alternatives to the patent and copyright system.The Kauffman Foundation helped support this work.

Entrepreneurship Policy Digest: Stimulating Entrepreneurial Growth

February 19, 2014

Entrepreneurship is one of the few things politicians across the country can agree on as something to be promoted. New companies, young companies, and especially growing companies are essential to job growth, wage growth, and rising standards of living. Unfortunately, despite its headline-grabbing popularity, trends in entrepreneurship seem to be moving in the wrong direction. For several years, the rate of business creation in the United States has been flat or falling. Meanwhile, overall economic dynamism -- the productive turnover of businesses and jobs -- has been declining in both the overall economy and the high-tech sector, which has traditionally been the most dynamic part of the economy. Negative trends in entrepreneurship may be related to other discouraging economic trends, including stagnant wages and low economic mobility. To address these challenges, the Kauffman Foundation announced a two-year initiative to develop a New Entrepreneurial Growth Agenda at its annual State of Entrepreneurship Address held this month at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. To kick it off, we brought together several leading thinkers in a policy discussion modeled on an entrepreneurial idea pitch competition. We asked the "Washington Wonks" to pitch their best idea for stimulating a new era of entrepreneurial growth. In turn, the "Policy Pundits" asked questions, suggested changes, and judged the promise of each idea. In the end, after audience questions, we opened it up for online voting.

Beyond Metropolitan Startup Rates: Regional Factors Associated with Startup Growth

January 27, 2014

Understanding what fosters -- and hinders -- firm formation and growth at the metropolitan level across the United States is a challenge. Entrepreneurship can be measured by a variety of indicators, and they each can tell somewhat different stories. Furthermore, because entrepreneurship can refer to the growth of firms from a startup stage to mid- or large-scale, no one dataset covers the full range of companies that fall in this category. This report contributes to the Kauffman Foundation's recent series of analyses on the rate of business creation in metropolitan areas. Going beyond identifying metropolitan areas with higher rates of entrepreneurship, we analyze what regional factors are associated, or unassociated, with entrepreneurial activity. Understanding what drives entrepreneurship at the regional level -- especially high-growth business creation -- will help policymakers and entrepreneurship supporters know where to invest their efforts.

The Contributions of Immigrants to Cancer Research in America

February 25, 2013

The report discusses the contributions of immigrant researchers and details the immigration difficulties experienced even by top cancer researchers. The study analyzed biographies of approximately 1,500 cancer researchers at the top cancer institutes. In "The Contributions of Immigrants to Cancer Research in America," the NFAP research shows that cancer researchers often wait years for permanent residence and endure the same long wait for green cards as other highly skilled immigrants and their employers. The study shows immigrant scientists have played an important role in improving the cancer survival rates experienced by Americans, and thus stresses the importance of allowing immigrant cancer researchers and others in medical-related fields access to additional green cards in future immigration legislation. The report includes profiles of leading immigrant researchers, as well as a historical look at the contributions of immigrants to cancer research.

Land of Opportunity

February 6, 2013

Desh Deshpande, entrepreneur and co-founder of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT and the Deshpande Foundation, recounts his entrepreneurial journey that began in India and flourished in the United States.

Entrepreneurial Community in Kansas City: From Fragmented to Collaborative

November 29, 2012

A small set of metropolitan areas in the United States can be considered second-tier life sciences or technology regions. Kansas City is such an emerging second-tier region. The Kansas City metropolitan area was able to grow a small but specialized knowledge economy because of the presence of large firms and subsequent efforts to strengthen entrepreneurship. This paper presents data from twenty interviews conducted in the summer of 2012 with regional experts, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs who have successfully raised risk capital.The analysis of Kansas City's entrepreneurial community shows, first, that large firms' role as incubators of entrepreneurial startup companies seems to have diminished, and that there are weak connections between existing large firms and entrepreneurial ventures. Second, entrepreneurial exits in the form of mergers and acquisitions have increased and a small number of cashed-out entrepreneurs are reinvesting their funds and becoming engaged. Yet this process seems to be still in its beginning stages. Third, the region's entrepreneurial community does not exhibit strong networking and collaboration. Rather, entrepreneurial ventures and industry connections exist much like "islands of excellence" without strong interconnections. Fourth, although the availability of funding has increased, local entrepreneurs perceive the accessibility and availability of funds -- and the capacity local venture investors bring to the table -- as limiting factors. At the same time, while the number of investment groups has increased, the investor community is still fragmented and not well connected. Fifth, the energy and collective effort to improve the Kansas City entrepreneurial community has increased and strengthened significantly since 2006 when a similar study was conducted.Various groups and organizations have ensured a thickening of the entrepreneurial support infrastructure in the form of creation of incubators, establishment of financial incentives to invest in entrepreneurial ventures (i.e. angel tax credits), and the addition of effective mentoring and networking events. Yet the analysis of the data shows that Kansas City faces the drawbacks of a region characterized by organizational thinness in the form of weak endowment of firms and organizations that can fuel the entrepreneurial pipeline and a lack of interaction and networks among key members of the entrepreneurial community, which keeps the entrepreneurial economy fragmented. To overcome organizational thinness and fragmentation, this paper suggests focusing policy efforts on connecting key actors in the entrepreneurial economy such as existing large firms, entrepreneurial ventures, universities, and funding and mentoring organizations.

The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (KIEA) by Veteran Status: 1996-2011

November 1, 2012

The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (KIEA) is a leading indicator of new business creation in the United States. Capturing new business owners in their first month of significant business activity, this measure provides the earliest documentation of new business development across the country. The percentage of the adult, non-business owner population that starts a business each month is measured using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). This research brief presents new data on entrepreneurship rates by veteran status. Previously, the KIEA reports have presented estimates of entrepreneurship rates by gender, race, nativity, age group, education level, industry, state, and metropolitan statistical area (MSA), but have not presented results by veteran status. New data extracts for every month of CPS data from 1996 to 2011 were downloaded and compiled to create estimates of entrepreneurship rates by veteran status.

The Ascent of America's High-Growth Companies: An Analysis of the Geography of Entrepreneurship

September 1, 2012

This report offers the first-ever deep dive into the geographic trends of America's fastest growing private companies -- the Inc. 500. Inc. magazine's annual ranking, which began in 1982, has become an important point of pride for high-achieving companies and a source of research for economists. Not until now, however, has anyone dissected the past thirty years of comprehensive data from these high-growth companies. Through a partnership with Inc. magazine, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has done just that. In this, one of a set of studies examining Inc. 500 data over time, we offer a geographic analysis of how regional characteristics are associated with fast-growing companies and innovations. Tracing hundreds of Inc. firms per year and thousands per decade, we have captured a range of innovations and analyzed the regions that continuously produce fast-growing companies. Knowing that very little is understood about the geography of high-growth companies, we approached this analysis with a range of questions: where are the fast-growing Inc. firms located at the state and metropolitan levels? How have they shifted over time? Do we find greater geographic concentration of Inc. firms over time? How is the geography of Inc. firms different from commonly associated growth factors, such as high-tech industries, venture capital firms, and research universities?As you review the findings of this report, keep in mind that the creation of another ranking is not our primary objective. It is more important to demonstrate different regions with different sectors and strengths, in contrast to previously identified areas that have been highlighted as strong producers of high-tech companies. Thus, our objective is to shed light on formerly understudied areas of economic development.

Reforming Immigration Law to Allow More Foreign Student Entrepreneurs to Launch Job-Creating Ventures in the United States

August 1, 2012

As universities move toward a more experiential approach to entrepreneurship education, many academic units and cross-campus entrepreneurship programs are encouraging their students to actively engage with the curriculum and apply the skills they learn. One such approach is to have students start their own businesses before they graduate. In addition to enhancing their education, participation in the planning, launch and operation of a start-up venture can lead directly to the creation of new jobs for many other individuals. Unfortunately, being the founder of a start-up venture in the United States proves complicated for foreign students in our colleges and universities. Across the country, both undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship students desiring to participate actively in a startup face vexing immigration law challenges. This paper outlines some of the barriers that foreign student entrepreneurs face, and describes how bipartisan legislation would help to address some of these roadblocks.