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Delivering on the Dream: Protecting Immigrant Rights and Fostering a Culture of Inclusion

July 1, 2020

California has been at the forefront of this surge with the public, private, and philanthropic community taking a firm stance against anti-immigrant policies and divisive rhetoric. The James Irvine Foundation is one of several California foundations that has stepped up its support to protect immigrant rights, joining forces with other partners across the state to bolster collective and mutually reinforcing efforts. As part of its grantmaking to a range of nonprofit partners, The Foundation seeks to ensure that everyone of California's low-income workers – many of whom are immigrants – have the power to advance economically.To better understand the effect of rapid response grantmaking and the current landscape for immigrant integration in California, The Irvine Foundation partnered with Engage R+D on this practice brief to explore the various ways California foundations are contributing to a pro-immigrant movement. It is based on a developmental evaluation of The Irvine Foundation's Protecting Immigrant Rights (PIR) efforts and interviews with 12 foundations and immigrant rights organizations. It seeks to provide actionable insights for funders and immigrant-serving organizations as they pivot from crisis-response to more proactive and longer-term strategy for immigrant integration.

Listening for Change: Evaluators of color speak out about experiences with foundations and evaluation firms

May 1, 2020

The quotes and ideas presented in this brief emerged from conversations with California-based evaluators of color during the Summer and Fall of 2019. With the support of the James Irvine Foundation, Engage R+D facilitated three conversations with a total of 16 participants who identify as emerging to mid-level evaluators of color working with philanthropy (Bay Area = 10; Central Valley = 2; Los Angeles = 4). We identified participants through our organizations' networks, through outreach to other foundations, and through the American Evaluation Association's website and other lists. The majority of participants had less than 10 years of evaluation experience and worked for small- to mid-sized evaluation consulting firms. Some participants were independent consultants or affiliated with a university. Eleven of the participants took part in an additional follow-up discussion of the themes that emerged from the original conversations to reflect on implications and recommendations. Though data collection happened prior to COVID-19, the issues raised in this brief are brought into even greater relief by how the crisis is impacting communities of color.

More than Listening: Harnessing the Power of Feedback to Drive Collaborative Learning

August 1, 2019

Foundations can and should do a better job of gathering feedback from and learning with both grantees and the communities they seek to serve. This type of collaborative learning has the potential to inform and strengthen foundation strategy, grantmaking practices, evaluation, and communications. Gathering meaningful input is difficult, however, given power dynamics between foundations and those they support. Even when authentic input has been gathered, it can be difficult to apply insights to ongoing work.What does it look like for a foundation to get feedback from its grantee and community stakeholders? Much of the feedback discussions taking place in the sector center on the role of nonprofit organizations. This article explores how foundations can harness the power of feedback to improve philanthropic practice, using the experiences of the James Irvine Foundation as a case example. It provides information about the foundation and its commitment to constituent feedback, presents two cases from its own experience gathering feedback from community stakeholders and grantee partners, and then lays out a series of culminating lessons and insights based on this work.Overall, Irvine believes that collaborative learning requires more than just listening. To truly harness the power of feedback, foundations must act on what they are hearing, share how they are responding with those who provided feedback, and open up this learning to others who can benefit. To do this effectively, foundations must evolve their internal organizational practices to better incorporate external perspectives.

The Engagement Revolution: A Study of Strategic Organizational Transformation in 10 California Arts Nonprofits

October 1, 2017

To stay relevant to changing communities, many arts organizations have been developing engagement programs — that is, programming designed to reach more and different people and involve them more actively in how art is made and experienced. In 2013, a group of 10 arts nonprofits across California set out to make engagement central to their identities as part of the New California Arts Fund and pursued transformations in their programmatic, organizational, and business models. This evaluation documents their achievements and challenges, and provides considerations for arts organizations and funders interested in reaching ethnically diverse and/or low-income communities.

Pay for Success Scorecard: Lessons from the Vanguard of the Outcomes Movement

September 1, 2017

In 2014, The James Irvine Foundation and Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) announced the California Pay for Success Initiative (the CA PFS Initiative), a $5.6-million effort to support the exploration of PFS that resulted in the five projects launched or near launch and the development of many others in the Golden State. Pay for Success (PFS) is a contracting approach that drives financial resources toward social programs that deliver results by tying payment to achievement of measurable outcomes. As such, PFS is at the vanguard of a shift toward outcomes in the social sector, and California's experience mirrors the nation more broadly. Drawing from NFF's Pay for Success Scorecard, below are learnings and recommendations for how to accelerate social sector transformation.

Hearts and Minds: The Arts and Civic Engagement

March 28, 2017

This study of existing research gathers compelling evidence that people who participate in the arts are more likely to be active in their communities and to be making a difference in the lives of others. Further, it shows how arts nonprofits may have natural advantages in helping people achieve new levels of understanding, empathy, and adaptation — critical capacities for civic engagement as well as acceptance and connection across class, race, heritage, or immigration status.

Building the Field of Arts Engagement: Prospects and Challenges

March 22, 2017

The cultural sector in America is grappling with how to remain relevant to the rapidly changing society from which it draws its audiences and support. This is a demanding task -- adapting to rapid demographic and technological change is no less challenging for the cultural sector than for journalism, the music industry, publishing, or the taxi cab business today. But if the cultural sector does not take on this task, it risks marginalization. Cultural leaders therefore need to examine the mechanics of engagement in the arts in a concerted way, distill lessons from their successes and failures, and share those lessons -- in short, to build the field of arts engagement. To explore this topic, in 2015 Irvine commissioned AEA Consulting to undertake panel discussions, surveys, and bilateral interviews across the arts sector. This report contains observations and reflections by Adrian Ellis, Elizabeth Ellis, and their colleagues.

Experiments in Arts Engagement: Case Studies

September 6, 2016

This set of seven case studies provides real-world examples and practical tips to enrich lessons identified in prior report, "Emerging Lessons and Implications from the Exploring Engagement Fund." The nine featured arts organizations vary by size, discipline, and geography. All pursue projects to engage participants from communities of color and low-income groups.

Investing in Cultural Participation and Financial Sustainability: Cross-cohort Analysis of the Arts Regional Initiative, 2009-2014

January 11, 2016

Between 2009 and 2014, The James Irvine Foundation invested $13.4 million through the Arts Regional Initiative to build the capacity of a group of nonprofit arts organizations in California locales outside of major arts centers. The aim was two-fold: to increase cultural participation and improve financial sustainability. The following lessons emerged from Harder+Company Community Research analysis of the Initiative:It's possible to increase cultural participation.Combining key approaches maximizes participation.Organizations can achieve new capacities.Increased capacity cannot ensure financial sustainability.Partnerships and executive leadership matter.Commitment level correlates with benefit.The Initiative intentionally focused on nonprofit arts organizations working in regions of California characterized by changing demographics and lacking robust financial support for the nonprofit arts sector. This regional context, including effects of the recession, is provided in the Appendix.

The Cultural Lives of Californians: Insights from the California Survey of Arts and Cultural Participation

May 19, 2015

Over the past two decades, numerous reports indicate that national rates of arts attendance have been declining. This downward trend is reflected in both survey data and in the day-to-day experiences of many nonprofit arts organizations. In California, attendance rates -- as defined by traditional measures -- have also declined. And yet, there is a sense that the arts and culture are flourishing as never before, with a renewed vigor and excitement. How do we understand this apparent contradiction?The trend in attendance figures, however, does not reflect Californians' participation in a wide array of arts and cultural activities. People's participation in arts and cultural activities, especially in ways that allow them to develop or release their own artistic impulse, is extensive -- and perhaps nowhere more so than in California.At the same time, California's cultural landscape is undergoing massive changes, affecting the ways people encounter, experience and engage with art. These changes include California's demographic shift to being a so-called "majority-minority" state and rapid technological advances that offer new opportunities for artistic expression and access. These changes pose challenges and exciting new opportunities for how artists and organizations create and share their expertise and work. But to understand these changes and their implications for the nonprofit arts field, a broader, more nuanced, more complete understanding of how Californians participate in arts and culture is required.The California Survey of Arts & Cultural Participation is a tool we developed to ask a wide range of questions about what Californians do to engage with arts and culture.

Why Where? Because Who: Arts Venues, Spaces and Tradition

December 3, 2014

This report explores art programming in unusual spaces for new audiences in an effort to understand the impetus behind the work and what lessons can be learned from leading examples of it. It builds on other recent efforts that discuss participation and location by placing the trend in its historical context, and it challenges the assertion that the trend is a recent one. Unusual locations are as much a part of the history of art as are the venues that are today considered more usual. Likewise, the venue that is unusual to some is often quite usual to many others including, importantly, new audiences that the arts seek to reach. A typology of this activity follows the historical survey, with some suggestions as to the vocabulary that might be used to describe what is happening. A series of case studies are then presented, indicating the range of outcomes possible when arts programming is pursued in unusual places. Lessons from these case studies, as well as from the broader survey, lead to some conclusions about the future of the work and its significance. The hope is that this report is inspiring to practitioners who have begun experimenting with work in unusual places as well as those who are eager to join in.

Emerging Lessons and Implications from the Exploring Engagement Fund

October 1, 2014

Through its Exploring Engagement Fund, The James Irvine Foundation provides risk capital for California arts organizations with innovative ideas and a readiness to take bold steps that will engage new and diverse populations. This report, drawn from an assessment by independent consulting firm Harder+Company Community Research in close partnership with consultant Diane Espaldon, distills lessons from the early implementation of Exploring Engagement Fund projects.