The Evaluation Roundtable hosts multi-day convenings about every 18 months. Each Roundtable meeting focuses on a topic of foundation effectiveness and includes a teaching case. Attendees work together to address real life situations that they face in their work.
The next meeting of the US Roundtable will be fall 2017.
The next meeting of the UK Roundtable will be spring 2017.
Assessing Fit: Foundations and Their Evaluation Functions February 2016
Hosted by William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Palo Alto, this Roundtable explored how the evaluation and learning function within foundations can be designed to best "fit" the organization’s grantmaking approach and culture.
Through benchmarking data and a teaching case from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, participants explored how foundation evaluation leaders and CEOs can balance the evaluation interests of a variety of audiences, weigh tradeoffs between focusing evaluation efforts on different “levels” and purposes, and support the healthy evolution of the evaluation and learning function as the foundation changes over time. About 90 staff from 48 funders participated.
Evaluation and Learning for Aligned Action: July 2014
Held in historic Montreal and sponsored by three Canadian funders, this Roundtable examined the question: How can evaluation and learning best support strategy when it is complex and emergent and requires interactions among independent but interdependent actors? About 90 staff from 46 funders participated—36 US foundations and 10 Canadian funders.
Read the framing brief to get an overview of the theme and questions discussed. See the presentations to get an overview of key concepts, as well as a practical example of an evaluation aiming to support aligned action. Tanya Beer and Michael Quinn Patton taught a teaching case on the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Social Innovation Generation (SiG) Initiative.
Inaugural UK Evaluation Roundtable: March 2014
A collaboration with the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, this London Roundtable involved 22 UK trusts and foundations and focused on the theory and practice of evaluation for strategic learning. Access the framing paper and proceedings from the event. Tanya Beer taught a teaching case on the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Learning Away programme.
Strategy Implementation: Addressing the Disconnect between Decisions and Data: December 2012
This Roundtable at the Ford Foundation in New York City focused on the relationship between evaluation and decision making during strategy implementation. The 41 participating foundations explored the common disconnect that occurs between data and decisions when strategies are unfolding in the field. Read the presentations from the event and findings from the 2012 benchmarking study on evaluation in foundations. Two follow-up journal articles were written on the benchmarking findings and on the meeting theme.
Michael Quinn Patton taught a teaching case on the David and Lucile Packard Foundation's evaluation of the Preschool for California's Children Grantmaking Program. This case study explored the challenges of using evaluation to support strategic learning throughout the life cycle of a long-term adaptive initiative.
Information and Its Use in Supporting Strategy: July 2010
This Baltimore Roundtable addressed the issue of whether and how foundations use evaluative information to adapt their program strategies. Some 68 staff from 34 foundations participated. Roundtable staff presented findings from their 2009 benchmarking study on how 31 foundations support, structure and use evaluative information. Following the conference, Evaluation Roundtable staff wrote a paper further describing this study.
Michael Quinn Patton taught a case study on the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections initiative. This case study explored a myriad of issues related to the challenge of evaluating comprehensive community initiatives and keeping the evaluation aligned with an evolving program.
The Strategy Forum of the Evaluation Roundtable:
The Evaluation Roundtable convened teams of foundation evaluation, program and management staff to participate in a three-day workshop to explore their efforts to develop, execute and learn from their strategies. Henry Mintzberg, a renowned corporate strategist, adapted his ideas about corporate strategy to be applied to philanthropy. Roundtable Evaluation staff also presented their research on the state of foundation strategy development and execution
In addition, Michael Quinn Patton taught a case based on The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's End-of-Life grantmaking. This case study examined how the foundation developed and executed its strategic approach to improve care at the end-of-life.
Improving Program Use of Evaluation: June 2006
Under the theme, "Does Evaluation Add Value to Philanthropy?" conveners challenged participants to consider how and how well foundations structure and support evaluation.
Michael Quinn Patton taught a case about the evaluation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Plain Talk initiative that sought to help youth avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmissible diseases.
Roundtable staff later prepared a report titled "Making Evaluation Matter: Ideas and Action Steps from the 2006 Evaluation Roundtable" based on the Roundtable. The report discussed the participants' diagnosis of the problem—i.e., the obstacles and issues that keep foundations from getting the most out of evaluation, and presented an agenda for action with steps to help foundations benefit from evaluation.