Evaluation 2017: From Learning to Action

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Learning in a Time of Change

Session Number: 2562
Track: Nonprofit and Foundations
Session Type: Panel
Session Chair: Marcie Parkhurst [Deputy Director, Strategy & Learning - Walton Family Foundation]
Presenter 1: Srik Gopal [Vice President, Strategy, Impact, and Learning - Democracy Fund]
Presenter 2: Subarna Mathes [Strategy and Evaluation Officer - Ford Foundation]
Presenter 3: Chera Reid, The Kresge Foundation [Director, Strategic Learning, Research, and Evaluation - The Kresge Foundation]
Presenter 4: Pamela Schwartz [Senior Director, Community Health Impact and Learning - Kaiser Permanente]
Time: Nov 10, 2017 (08:00 AM - 09:30 AM)
Room: PARK TWR STE 8217

Abstract 1 Title: How Democracy Fund is using collaborative sensemaking to understand the changing context
Presentation Abstract 1:

Democracy Fund has been building a systems thinking and learning practice for several years. Since the election, the organization has been working to apply its skills in systems sensing to the changing political environment, and to balance the long-term systems change work with a more adaptive and responsive process to address urgent needs. This includes building a set of "responsive project tables" on themes of particular concern. These tables are meant to convene staff and experts to actively listen to the field, triangulate across data sources to identify emerging trends, apply systems thinking tools to evaluating risk and opportunity, and design short-term interventions to respond, while engaging in emergent learning throughout. In this panel, Srik Gopal, Vice President for Strategy, Learning, and Impact at Democracy Fund will relate early lessons learned from this work.


Abstract 2 Title: How the Ford Foundation is using structured learning conversations to inform strategic decision-making in a quickly changing context
Presentation Abstract 2:

Like so many, the Ford Foundation found itself needing to work in a very different political landscape on November 9, 2016. The new context demanded we revisit assumptions that have informed our programming strategies and make doubly sure we are working in ways that maximize our impact.  In the U.S., we did this on two levels: within thematic area teams and across them, as well as at the national-to-state-level and the state-to-national-level. During this session, Subarna Mathes, Strategy and Evaluation Officer, will reflect on the steps the Foundation will be taking through the end of Q1 2017 to conduct quick field scans and have a series of strategy and learning conversations with staff in order to identify a set of cross-cutting priorities to effectively work in the new landscape. 


Abstract 3 Title: How the Kresge Foundation is using rapid learning cycles to inform its response to the changing context
Presentation Abstract 3:

At the Kresge Foundation, we begin by grounding in our values so that we can be effective partners to nonprofit organizations that focus on improving the lives of low-income people in urban America. We have committed to increased flexibility in our grantmaking to support emerging issues, and in light of this, we are focused on learning in rapid cycles and learning alongside the nonprofit sector. Our approach is multi-faceted and includes:

  • Prioritizing regular structured learning that asks What? So What? Now What?
  • Leading with equity and tracking progress in our internal and external work;
  • Communicating about the questions we’re asking, not only about “what works;” and
  • Sponsoring meetings that bring together nonprofit, public, and philanthropic leaders to share their current and best thinking and to seed new networks

Abstract 4 Title: How Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit is using structured learning activities to understand changes in context
Presentation Abstract 4:

For Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, becoming a learning organization is more than a set of products, a plan or a process. It requires a commitment to change. It means getting clearer about what we are striving to accomplish, changing the questions we ask, and how we ask them. It means aligning our measurement and evaluation approaches, using data to intentionally drive strategy, and allowing enough time for reflection and learning. One way we are already seeing this shift is our approach to understanding the evolving policy landscape. As we anticipate the many unknowns, our leadership team recently came together to develop a shared understanding of the potential changes and implications for our communities. We are using structured learning activities to help us understand the context and begin to explore solutions.


Theme: Learning About Evaluation Use and Users
Audience Level: All Audiences

Session Abstract (150 words): 

As evaluators working in the social sector, we know that context matters. Last year’s elections and the first few months of the new administration suggest that the U.S. policy environment is shifting rapidly, with potentially wide-ranging effects on the social sector and those it serves. This creates an urgent need for sensing, reflection, and deep learning about what is changing, why, and what the implications are for an organization’s work moving forward. Evaluators are particularly well-suited to help guide their colleagues and clients in using data and reflection to support real-time learning and informed decision-making. In this panel discussion, leaders from four organizations will discuss how they are using learning and evaluation as tools to better understand the changing context and how they might respond, as well as how changes in context are influencing the way they approach evaluation and learning. There will be ample time for Q&A with panelists.



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Cancellation Policy: Refunds less a $50 fee will be granted for requests received in writing prior to 11:59 PM EDT October 16, 2017. Email cancellation requests to registration@eval.org. Fax request to (202) 367-2173. All refunds are processed after the meeting. After October 16, 2017 all sales are final. For Evaluation 2017, international attendees and presenters who encounter complications due to the international travel environment will have up to 30 days after the event to request a refund and submit appropriate documentation. No administrative fee will apply for the international requests. The $50 fee will be waived for registrants who planned to travel into the US and experienced international travel issues.