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The Foundation Review

Organizational learning

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Learning As We Go: How Emergent Process Supports Sustainable Community And Philanthropic Change, Elizabeth Myrick, Rachel Mosher-Williams, Laurie Zierer Sep 2022

Learning As We Go: How Emergent Process Supports Sustainable Community And Philanthropic Change, Elizabeth Myrick, Rachel Mosher-Williams, Laurie Zierer

The Foundation Review

Beginning in 2014, PA Humanities, one of 56 state and territorial humanities councils across the country, drew upon the work of Orton Family Foundation to deploy the Community Heart & Soul method, which centers community planning and civic engagement around connecting people to each other, and to the many assets of the places they live, through individual storytelling and collective narrative building.

Between 2015 and 2018, PA Humanities awarded matching grants to three locations in Pennsylvania — Greater Carlisle, Meadville, and Williamsport — to pilot PA Heart & Soul, a humanities-based, resident-driven community planning process that cultivates a shared sense …


Overcoming The Systemic Challenges Of Wealth Inequality In The U.S., David Peter Stroh Dec 2020

Overcoming The Systemic Challenges Of Wealth Inequality In The U.S., David Peter Stroh

The Foundation Review

The galvanizing public murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Hispanic people have put structural racism and its influence on wealth inequality in the U.S. into stark relief. As multiracial groups express outrage at these visible disparities, we risk missing the other side of the coin: that wealth inequality in turn fans structural racism. Moreover, as they reinforce each other, these two factors erode the social, economic, and political viability of our democracy. Understanding and then breaking this vicious cycle are essential to realizing our renewed commitment to a country that works everyone.

This …


Learning About Neighborhood Change Through Funder-Grantee Collaboration, Debra Dahab, Brooke Finn, Lois Greco, Nancy Kopf Jun 2019

Learning About Neighborhood Change Through Funder-Grantee Collaboration, Debra Dahab, Brooke Finn, Lois Greco, Nancy Kopf

The Foundation Review

NeighborWorks America and the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation support change in communities through a rigorous and structured collaborative learning framework that places the resident voice and experience at the center of learning. Both funders regularly engage in collaborative learning processes with their grantees and partners to support local revitalization practices and inform program and grantmaking strategies.

This article examines the key ingredients and processes needed to develop and sustain collaborative learning among grantee organizations, community residents, and other stakeholders and funding partners, as well as the critical role played by technical assistance providers.

The authors reflect on their experience with …


Below The Waterline: Developing A Transformational Learning Collaborative For Foundation Program Officers, Annie Martinie, Jaime Love, Michael Kelly, Kirsten Dueck, Sarah Strunk Jun 2019

Below The Waterline: Developing A Transformational Learning Collaborative For Foundation Program Officers, Annie Martinie, Jaime Love, Michael Kelly, Kirsten Dueck, Sarah Strunk

The Foundation Review

Learning from fellow grantmakers is imperative in today’s ever-changing world. In late 2016, four health legacy foundations partnered to launch the Health Legacy Collaborative Learning Circle, creating an opportunity to understand not just the participating foundations’ visible investments and programs, but also the underlying behaviors, structures, and mindsets that ultimately explain why certain results were or were not achieved.

This article describes the yearlong process of creating the collaborative, and presents a new learning framework — based on the iceberg metaphor — that can be used to create learning environments that test and expand assumptions about promising approaches to common …


Reflective Practice For Learning From Experience: Navigating The Back Roads At Work, Jan Jaffe Mar 2019

Reflective Practice For Learning From Experience: Navigating The Back Roads At Work, Jan Jaffe

The Foundation Review

What are the roadblocks that limit reflective practice in the field of philanthropy? Between the desire to move the needle on social change and the pressure to be productive, philanthropy as a field is understandably driven to focus on doing and resistant to taking time to reflect on practice. This article is designed to help foundations encourage leadership and staff to put their expertise into play as a learning strategy.

This article defines reflective practice and traces roots and research that can inform its use. It also reports on interviews with philanthropy practitioners about how they use various reflective practice …


Strategic Learning In Practice: A Case Study Of The Kauffman Foundation, Matthew Carr, Brett Hembree, Nathan Madden Mar 2019

Strategic Learning In Practice: A Case Study Of The Kauffman Foundation, Matthew Carr, Brett Hembree, Nathan Madden

The Foundation Review

Increasingly, foundations and nonprofits are seeking to engage their staff in learning and reflection activities that assess successes and challenges, and then generate insights that can improve programs and funding strategies. Yet, despite the intuitive benefits, there are common challenges that often stand in the way of promoting strategic learning for continuous improvement.

For the past year, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has been focused on creating more systematic and intentional strategic learning across our organization. As part of this work we cultivated a select cohort of staff to be “learning champions,” created simple tools and processes that can more …


Building A Culture Of Learning: Teaching A Complex Organization How To Fish, Tiffany Clarke, Hallie Preskill, Abigail Stevenson, Pamela Schwartz Mar 2019

Building A Culture Of Learning: Teaching A Complex Organization How To Fish, Tiffany Clarke, Hallie Preskill, Abigail Stevenson, Pamela Schwartz

The Foundation Review

Many social sector organizations are looking to balance their strategic plans with an ability to respond more quickly to change as it unfolds in their communities. For many years — but gaining particular urgency in 2015 — Kaiser Permanente Community Health saw a need to better understand the progress and impact of its portfolio and use its data to adapt strategy in response to its changing context.

To increase its capacity for strategic learning, Community Health worked with FSG to develop and implement a system called Measurement and Evaluation for Learning and Outcomes. While this process was tailored to Community …


Challenges And Opportunities In Philanthropic Organizational Learning: Reflections From Fellow Grantmakers, Jennifer Chubinski, Kelley Adcock, Susan Sprigg Mar 2019

Challenges And Opportunities In Philanthropic Organizational Learning: Reflections From Fellow Grantmakers, Jennifer Chubinski, Kelley Adcock, Susan Sprigg

The Foundation Review

As the field of philanthropy has matured, increasing attention has been paid to evaluating the impact of philanthropic investments. In recent years, the scope of evaluation has expanded to include an intentional focus on organizational learning with the goal of learning from ongoing work, informing decision-making, and ultimately improving impact.

With this momentum to carry out organizational learning strategies and share successes, the sector has not yet stopped to reflect on challenges and lessons learned in the process of building the capacity for organizational learning — the messy yet meaningful middle between a desire for learning and the implementation of …


Marguerite Casey Foundation: Reflecting On 15 Years Of Philanthropic Leadership Through A Summative Evaluation, Mavis Sanders, Claudia Galindo, Luz Vega-Marquis, Cheryl Milloy Jun 2017

Marguerite Casey Foundation: Reflecting On 15 Years Of Philanthropic Leadership Through A Summative Evaluation, Mavis Sanders, Claudia Galindo, Luz Vega-Marquis, Cheryl Milloy

The Foundation Review

This article presents the findings of a summative evaluation of the Marguerite Casey Foundation that was conducted on the occasion of its 15th anniversary. The evaluation was designed to gauge stakeholders’ perceptions of the foundation’s operations to facilitate organizational learning. In sharing these results, the authors seek to elucidate the role of evaluation as a learning practice within the field of philanthropy.

The article describes the foundation’s organizational elements and evolution and discusses key themes that emerged from qualitative data collected from foundation leaders and staff, as well as findings from a survey of current grantees.

The article presents a …


Through The Looking Glass: Foundation Evaluation And Learning And The Quest For Strategic Learning, Suzanne Kennedy Leahy, Sandra Wegmann, Lexi Nolen Dec 2016

Through The Looking Glass: Foundation Evaluation And Learning And The Quest For Strategic Learning, Suzanne Kennedy Leahy, Sandra Wegmann, Lexi Nolen

The Foundation Review

Strategic learning, a critical if relatively new lens for philanthropy, is neither simple nor efficient to institutionalize or practice yet — foundations are still figuring out how to do it well. In 2015, the Episcopal Health Foundation launched a project to distill lessons about how leading foundations configure evaluation and learning, and how they allocate related responsibilities in support of strategic learning.

This article addresses different models that foundations use to establish and staff evaluation and learning functions, what other organizational considerations they should take into account in order to prioritize strategic-learning work, and what tools and approaches can be …


Getting Real With Strategy: Insights From Implementation Science, Douglas Easterling, Allison Metz Jun 2016

Getting Real With Strategy: Insights From Implementation Science, Douglas Easterling, Allison Metz

The Foundation Review

Foundations are increasingly coming to appreciate the importance of strategy. But simply having a strategy – even an explicit strategy – does not guarantee that a foundation will actually achieve its goals.

To implement a strategy effectively, a foundation needs to operationalize it in the form of specific functions that staff will carry out and needs to create an organizational infrastructure that supports the strategy. The field of implementation science offers a set of tools for helping foundations address these tasks.

After introducing some general principles of implementation science, this article describes in depth the concepts of practice profiles, which …


Emergent Learning: A Framework For Whole-System Strategy, Learning, And Adaptation, Marilyn Darling, Heidi Guber, Jillaine Smith, James Stiles Mar 2016

Emergent Learning: A Framework For Whole-System Strategy, Learning, And Adaptation, Marilyn Darling, Heidi Guber, Jillaine Smith, James Stiles

The Foundation Review

The field of philanthropy is exploring what it takes to achieve impact in complex environments. The terms “adaptive” and “emergent” are beginning to be used, often interchangeably, to describe strategies by which funders can tackle complexity. This article proposes distinguishing between the two and explores more deeply how the research into complexity can inform philanthropic practice.

While approaches like systems mapping, scenario planning, and appreciative inquiry have been put forward as useful approaches to expanding perspectives and seeing whole systems, the field needs a framework for going beyond these planning tools in order to actually create the conditions in which …


Redefining Expectations For Place-Based Philanthropy, Katelyn Mack, Hallie Preskill, James Keddy, Moninder-Mona K. Jhawar Dec 2014

Redefining Expectations For Place-Based Philanthropy, Katelyn Mack, Hallie Preskill, James Keddy, Moninder-Mona K. Jhawar

The Foundation Review

This article discusses how The California Endowment has used a midcourse strategic review to refine Building Healthy Communities, aiming to provide insight for other place-based initiatives and to add to the body of knowledge about how to support transformative community change.

With Building Healthy Communities, the endowment is taking a new approach to community change using a dual strategy to build community capacity in 14 places and scale the impact of its local efforts through statewide policy advocacy and communications. In 2013, it commissioned a strategic review to reflect on what it has learned from the first three years of …


Benchmarking Evaluation In Foundations: Do We Know What We Are Doing?, Julia Coffman, Tanya Beer, Patricia Patrizi, Elizabeth Heid Thompson Jan 2013

Benchmarking Evaluation In Foundations: Do We Know What We Are Doing?, Julia Coffman, Tanya Beer, Patricia Patrizi, Elizabeth Heid Thompson

The Foundation Review

· Evaluation in philanthropy – with staff assigned to evaluation-related responsibilities – began in the 1970s and has evolved, along with philanthropy, in the four decades since. What has not changed, however, is a regular questioning of what foundations are doing on evaluation, especially since the world of philanthropy regularly shifts, and changes in evaluation resourcing and positioning tend to soon follow.

· This article presents new findings about what foundations are doing on evaluation and discusses their implications. It is based on 2012 research that benchmarks the positioning, resourcing, and function of evaluation in foundations, and follows up on …


Designing For Learning: One Foundation’S Efforts To Institutionalize Organizational Learning, Rosanna Tran, Sanjay Shah Jan 2013

Designing For Learning: One Foundation’S Efforts To Institutionalize Organizational Learning, Rosanna Tran, Sanjay Shah

The Foundation Review

· This article explores the California HealthCare Foundation’s internal efforts, inspired in part by the process of design thinking, to institutionalize organizational learning.

· One outcome of this process has been a “grantmaking toolbox,” which represents an attempt to document new, effective, and innovative grantmaking tactics.

· While creating this toolbox, the foundation realized that the process of learning holds as much – if not more – value as the products of learning. Moreover, we gained three valuable insights that may be relevant for other foundations interested in advancing their learning efforts: effective learning is a collaborative, rather than an …