The Year Ahead for CEI

See What We’re Up To in 2022

An update from CEI’s March 29, 2022 newsletter. You can subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

Dear colleagues,

For over a decade, you’ve known the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI) as a trusted partner in philanthropy and thought leader working at the intersection of evaluation, adaptive systems change, and complexity. In 2019, we sharpened our mission to name what was implicit: all of our work must be in service to racial equity and justice. We are calling on the philanthropic and nonprofit sector to join us in imagining a just, multiracial democracy, and to believe that how we approach strategy, learning, and evaluation is vital to making this possible.

Our anchoring question is: 

How can CEI partner with and guide those who are transforming philanthropy into a powerful force for advancing racial equity and justice?

In each of our four areas of work–evaluation, strategy and learning consulting, convening, and research—we are equipping ourselves to show up in service to racial equity and justice. Here’s a snapshot of what this looks like and what we are working on:

1. Innovative Evaluation. Building on decades of experience in advocacy evaluation and the study of complex social change, CEI’s evaluation work is focusing on power and power building as a meaningful lever for advancing a multiracial and representative democracy. For example, alongside our partners at Social Insights Research, we are evaluating the Local Base Building and Birth Justice components of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Community Power initiative, which centers local organizing in advancing health equity and racial justice.

2. Strategy and Learning Consulting. We partner with values-aligned foundations and co-conspirators who seek to transform and reform philanthropic strategy, evaluation, and learning practices. For example, we partnered with the Omidyar Network’s Reimagining Capitalism team on a review of their strategy to shape a New Economic Paradigm. We tried out a technique called boundary critique as a way of cultivating the critical voices of others on strategy–including those directly affected by the problem the strategy is addressing—about what a strategy is now, compared to ideas about what it could or should be.

3. Convening. Building on the Evaluation Roundtable’s legacy, which previously convened foundation evaluation and learning leaders every 18 months to delve deeply into a “problem of practice,” we are modifying and expanding our convening footprint so that we can name and learn from opportunities and challenges that sector leaders are experiencing in real-time. We are not doing this alone. Just this January, over 500 participants joined the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project & CEI for a webinar to consider: “What does a more equitable and trust-based approach to learning and evaluation look like?

4. Research. We are continuing to benchmark evaluation and learning practices in philanthropy, but now are aligning this research with our clear purpose to advance racial equity and justice. We expect to release new benchmarking research in 2023.

As we’ve shifted our purpose and focus, our team has grown to meet the need. 

As co-leaders, we are reimagining our processes so that they intentionally and holistically focus on racial equity and justice. In addition, in the last year our team has doubled from 5 to 10, better equipping us to live into our purpose and the possibilities we see ahead. In full transparency, we know we cannot meet this moment without our phenomenal team of experts and our partners

Take a moment to learn more about each of our colleagues here.

We’re proud of our transformation and where we are headed. Stay tuned for more on our partnerships and the resources we publish as the year progresses.

Julia Coffman and Dr. Chera Reid
Co-Executive Directors of the Center for Evaluation Innovation