EPTF Week: Evaluation Policy and Foundations: How the Work of Foundations can Help Inform Evaluation Policy and Vice Versa by Katrina Bledsoe

Hi, I’m Katrina Bledsoe, a member of the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF), a research scientist at Education Development Center, and principal consultant of Katrina Bledsoe Consulting. Throughout this week, members of the EPTF highlighted ways evaluation can inform policy at the federal and state levels, and within the public sector. Today I’m going to talk a about another sector whose work can and is influenced by evaluation policy—that of philanthropy.

Foundations have long been engaged in programming and policy making and their influence has been substantial. Foundations are organizations that are often in a position to take risks in programming, and to address issues related to systems and structures. Many philanthropic organizations have embraced evaluation as a learning tool and continuous feedback mechanism not only for “boots on the ground” initiatives that they fund, but also their organizational and mission policy. This illustrates how evaluation policy and its use is not singularly limited to government but is useful in philanthropic organizations as well. And evaluation policy helps to shape programs and initiatives not only within foundations but also more broadly throughout communities.

Although the EPTF and AEA’s Road Map have focused primarily on Federal policy and legislative actions, there are intersections with evaluation policy developed by philanthropic organizations that can inform Federal policies, and vice versa. Certainly, foundations have the power to make change in communities/societies and to influence governing and government policy. For instance, several philanthropic organizations such as the Kellogg Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have developed guiding documents on evaluation for their grantees. These foundations have also continued to lead the charge in shaping evaluation policy throughout the philanthropic field.

In my best-case scenario, the AEA Road Map could inform the work of philanthropy, particularly as the sector continues the upward trend of influence in focusing on national-scale issues such as education, public health, and immigration. Likewise, the Road Map can be informed by much of the work that is being carried out by foundations, as they address issues of inequity, structural systems and context.

I hope that both sectors, considering they both work for the good of the public, can work together to continue to shape a consistent policy that benefits all.

Rad Resources: Here are four great resources provided by philanthropy with broader evaluation policy uses:

  • The Luminare Group has been working on equitable evaluation and is a great resource [e.g., technical assistance, tools, articles, etc.] within philanthropy for evaluation policy making.
  • The Kellogg Foundation’s Evaluation Handbook is a go-to resource for organizations to use evaluation in their initiatives.
  • The Kauffman Foundation’s Evaluation Guide has served as a policy guide on evaluation within philanthropy.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating AEA’s Evaluation Policy Task Force (EPTF) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of AEA’s EPTF. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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