New tools to help foster grantmaker-grantee shared learning by Andrew Taylor and Ben Liadsky

Hi, we are Andrew Taylor and Ben Liadsky from Taylor Newberry Consulting. Previously we shared with you our research on learning cultures and how grantmakers can build learning relationships with their grant recipients beginning at the grant application stage. Now, we’re back to share some practical tools to help you put those ideas into action.

As a quick recap of our last blog, evaluation is much more likely to lead to action when it is undertaken by an organization that has a strong culture of learning. However, developing learning cultures takes time and, similarly, grantmakers need resources and skills to understand how they can best cultivate and support learning with their grantees.

Rad Resources:

Self-assessment tool. Defining learning cultures can be hard and it’s difficult to know how to start a conversation about what elements of organizational learning are missing or can be improved. In this 18-question self-assessment, organizations (both grantmakers and grantees) can identify and assess the state of learning in their organization.

Question bank. As a grantmaker, how much do you really know about an organization you are looking to fund? In order to develop a deeper understanding of the culture within an organization and the way it approaches learning, we’ve created this tool containing a variety of questions. It can be useful to help understand and start a dialogue on what shared learning goals might look like.

Training guide. This document is meant as a companion to our earlier research report that we shared in our last AEA blog. In short, it can be used to help grantmaker staff better understand the importance of organizational learning and how to engage externally with others in a learning-focused way.

To see all our materials, visit our webpage: 

Lessons Learned:

Organizations that are impactful aren’t necessarily the ones that gather the most evaluation data or use the most sophisticated methodologies. They are the ones that are good at translating their evaluation findings (and other kinds of information) into insight and action. In other words, they have strong organizational cultures of learning.

It’s also important to acknowledge what it takes to build a strong culture of learning:

Building a Learning Culture in Your Own Organization diagram

While grantmakers and other nonprofits have worked hard in recent years to build their capacity to evaluate outcomes, less emphasis has been placed on building learning capacity. While many grantmakers recognize that the measurement of outcomes requires specialized expertise and dedicated resources, they don’t always acknowledge that the same is true for the work of learning from evaluation.

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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