Evaluation 2018: Speaking Truth to Power

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Authentic Engagement with Foundation Trustees about Complex Strategies

Session Number: 2165
Track: Nonprofit and Foundations
Session Type: Demonstration
Tags: complexity, philanthropy, strategy, systems
Session Facilitator: Clare Nolan, MPP [Co-Founder - Engage R+D]
First Author or Discussion Group Leader: Julia Coffman [Director - Center for Evaluation Innovation]
Second Author or Discussion Group Leader: Olivia Deich [Evaluation and Learning Officer - David and Lucile Packard Foundation]
Time: Oct 31, 2018 (05:45 PM - 06:30 PM)
Room: Hilton - Hope Ballroom A

Audience Level: Intermediate

Session Abstract (150 words): 

Foundations are increasingly tackling complex problems rooted in deeply dysfunctional systems. This work demands adaptive strategies that emphasize experimentation, learning, and adjustment. Foundation leaders often struggle to educate trustees about the nature and importance of this work, and to effectively manage expectations for measuring progress and impact. This session will explore this issue by considering how the professional backgrounds of foundation board members influence their expectations for evidence, and how evaluators can use this understanding to do a better job communicating with trustees about complex, systemic work. We will engage participants in discussion around the following ideas relevant to this year’s theme:

  • What expectations do trustees hold for impact and how does this influence the types of work foundations take on?
  • What role can evaluators play in helping to educate trustees about complex, adaptive work?
  • How can evaluators cultivate trustee buy-in for evaluation approaches that prioritize learning?


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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 8, 2018. Email cancellation requests to registration@eval.org. All refunds are processed after the meeting. After October 8, 2018 all sales are final. For Evaluation 2018, 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.