Evaluation for Strategic Learning: Assessing Readiness and Results

Published: March 2014

Type: Publication

This brief explores organizational preparedness and situational suitability for evaluation that supports strategic learning, and how to understand if this type of evaluation is working.  

AnnaWilliams

Evaluation for strategic learning is the use of data and insights from a variety of information-gathering approaches—including evaluation—to inform decision-making about strategy. This approach to evaluation has a specific objective—improving strategy—in the same way that some evaluations aim to demonstrate impact. Different evaluation approaches, including developmental, formative, and summative evaluations, can be used for strategic learning. Evaluation for strategic learning attempts to bridge the gap between evaluation and strategy.

Foundations and nonprofits that promote next-generation solutions to longstanding problems need to evaluate their efforts regularly and use the findings to adapt and improve. Although many social change organizations espouse learning and adaptation as part of their culture, actual efforts to use evaluation in this way often fall flat.

To fully realize the important lessons that can inform strategy, evaluations must be designed and timed to be in sync with strategy development and improvements.

Opportunities for organizational learning and strategic improvement remain untapped when evaluation findings are not translated into the strategy-setting context. To reap the benefits of evaluation in terms of real learning, both evaluators and the organizations they work with must approach evaluation in a way that addresses common broken links in the strategy learning cycle.

This brief explores organizational preparedness and situational suitability for evaluation that supports strategic learning, looks at how to understand if this type of evaluation is working, and provides short case examples to help bring the ideas and concepts to life.