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Necessary and Not Sufficient: the State of Evaluation Use in Foundations

October 1, 2011

Over the last decade "strategic philanthropy" has dominated the thinking of many big and ambitious foundations. Theoretically, foundations of this kind not only provide grant support to nonprofits, but importantly, assess social problems, develop strategies to solve them, and track the results of their efforts over time.

Measuring Change While Changing Measures: Learning In, and From, the Evaluation of Making Connections

October 29, 2010

This case study describes the evaluation of a multi-site, decade-long community change effort by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that aimed to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children by transforming their neighborhoods and helping their parents achieve economic stability, connect with better services and supports, and forge strong social networks. The case study explores a myriad of issues related to the challenges of evaluating comprehensive community initiatives and keeping the evaluation relevant as the program evolved.

Death is Certain; Strategy Isn't: Assessing the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's End-of-Life Grantmaking

October 1, 2007

This report describes a strategic assessment of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 20-year investment in end-of-life grantmaking. It illustrates the issues raised in conducting an assessment of a strategy rather than of a single program or initiative.

Looking For Shadows: Evaluating Community Change in the Annie E. Casey Foundation Plain Talk Initiative

May 1, 2006

This case study explores the evaluation of a large multi-city initiative that sought to make contraceptives available to sexually active youth to reduce pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases. The evaluation design included within-site and cross-site analysis and featured multiple data collection strategies, including a baseline and follow-up survey, a heavy emphasis on qualitative research, and review of administrative data. This case explores the challenges of evaluating a politically charged initiative, with many expectations on the part of many stakeholders.

Evaluation of the Fighting Back Initiative

April 1, 2005

This case study describes an evaluation of a large-scale, multi-site effort to harness community-generated strategies to reduce the use and abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs. The findings of this controversial study were sharply questioned by stakeholders and the case illustrates how important issues of program design affected evaluation findings

The Devolution Initiative Evaluation: Innovation and Learning at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation

April 1, 2005

This case study describes the evaluation of a foundation initiative designed to foster learning about government investments to devolve major responsibilities for welfare reform and health care policy from the federal government to the states. The initiative's goal was also to mobilize advocates to respond to information as implications of the studies unfolded. The evaluation had multiple components, which included providing timely, continuous feedback to the foundation about how the initiative was -- or was not -- working. As a case, it illustrates the difficulties of crafting a theory of change for an ever evolving program across multiple stakeholders within and external to a foundation.

Changing Stakeholder Needs and Changing Evaluator Roles: The Central Valley Partnership of the James Irvine Foundation

April 28, 2003

This case study describes the evolution of the evaluator's role as the program evolved and developed, and as the needs of the client and intended users changed over time. The initiative aimed to assist immigrants in California's Central Valley. The case illustrates important tensions among accountability, learning and capacity building purposes of evaluation.

Home Visitation: A Case Study of Evaluation at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

July 1, 2002

This case study describes how a long-term investment in evaluation was instrumental to a foundation strategy to support home visitation and education to parents about effective interaction with their young children. The case illustrates the substantial impact an evaluation can have on a field.