Strategies

Evaluating

We ground our field-building in real-life evaluation practice. We work on evaluations that offer the opportunity to innovate and test new ideas. We work on at least two evaluation projects at a time in areas that challenge us and force us to try something new.

We specialize in the evaluation of complex and emergent strategies and support learning that makes collective action smarter and more powerful.

 

Foundations are recognizing that many actors and factors interact in unpredictable—and often invisible—ways to create problems. This means that change pathways rarely can be known in advance with certainty, small actions can produce big and unanticipated changes, solutions cannot be imposed, and there is no one right answer.

 

Our evaluation work focuses on strategies that are situated in this kind of complexity. Rather than seeing foundation strategy as the sole focus, we also focus on the system in which the strategy occurs. Our questions ask not just whether strategies are working, but whether we are doing the right things in the first place.

Our Work in Action

The Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative 

We worked with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on the evaluation of its Madison Initiative to strengthen U.S. democracy and its institutions—especially Congress—in this time of political polarization. We led a developmental evaluation during the Initiative’s initial phase of experimentation, learning, and field building. We used an innovative evaluation and learning approach that applied systems thinking and evolved to incorporate a combination of developmental, formative, and summative approaches.

The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative

We have been working with The California Endowment to evaluate the policy advocacy work associated with the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Initiative. BHC is a 10-year, $1 billion comprehensive community initiative launched in 2010 to advance statewide policy, change the narrative, and transform 14 of California’s communities most devastated by health inequities into places where all people have an opportunity to thrive. The evaluation is exploring what can be learned about the relationship between policy advocacy wins and their implementation and BHC’s investments in helping to organize the political power of residents who have been the targets of exclusion, stigma, and discrimination. 

Save the Children’s Early Childhood Advocacy Campaign

Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are evaluating Save the Children’s U.S. advocacy in states and at the federal level for high-quality early childhood education policies. The evaluation is both formative and summative. Our approach is an opportunity to advance the advocacy evaluation field by examining deployment of 501c3 funding alongside 501c4 resources; developing a performance assessment approach that is attuned to the current political context; and using summative evaluation methods that are still new to the advocacy context.