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Lily Zandniapour and Nicole Vicinanza on The Social Innovation Fund Evaluation Plan Guidance Document: A Tool for Building Shared Understanding of Rigorous Impact Evaluation Designs

Greetings! We are Lily Zandniapour of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and Nicole Vicinanza of JBS International.   We work together with our colleagues at CNCS and JBS to review and monitor the evaluation plans developed and implemented by programs participating in the CNCS Social Innovation Fund (SIF).   The SIF is one of six tiered- evidence initiatives introduced by President Obama in 2010. The goals of the SIF are two-fold: 1) to invest in promising interventions that address social and community challenges and, 2) to use rigorous evaluation methods to build and extend the evidence base for funded interventions.

Within the SIF, CNCS funds intermediary grantmaking organizations that then re-grant the SIF funding to subgrantee organizations. These subgrantees implement and participate in evaluations of programs that address community challenges in the areas of economic opportunity, youth development, or health promotion.

Rad Resource: Go to to see more about the work of the Social Innovation Fund.

SIF grantees and subgrantees are required to evaluate the impact of their programs, primarily using experimental and quasi-experimental designs to assess the relationship between each funded intervention and the impact it targets. To date, there are over 80 evaluations underway within the portfolio.

Lesson Learned: A key challenge we’ve encountered is making sure that CNCS, JBS, intermediaries, subgrantees and external evaluators all know what is required for a plan to demonstrate rigor in the SIF. To address this, CNCS and JBS worked together to develop the SIF Evaluation Plan (SEP) Guidance document based on a checklist of criteria that evaluators, participating organizations, and reviewers for intermediaries and CNCS could all use when developing and reviewing a plan.

Over the past three years, this Guidance document has been used to structure and review over 80 evaluation plans, and it has proved highly valuable in helping evaluators, programs, and funders to build a shared understanding of what this type of impact evaluation plan includes.

Rad Resource: Have a look at the SIF Evaluation Plan (SEP) Guidance ! It includes a detailed checklist for writing an impact evaluation plan, references and links to resources for each section of the plan, and sample formats for logic models, timelines, budgets, and a glossary of research terms.

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