The Evaluation Roundtable is a network of foundations seeking to improve how they learn about the impact of their work. We:
We regularly convene evaluation, program, and senior management from foundations to discuss key concerns about foundation effectiveness and the sector's capacity to make an impact. Roundtable events typically include teams from about 40 foundations.
Our meetings are unlike conferences where participants spend time passively listening to panel discussions and plenary speakers. Roundtable events focus on a specific topic and feature a teaching case. Attendees work together to address real-life situations that they face in their work. This practice-based, peer-to-peer learning allows participants to deepen the skills, tactics, and knowledge that foundation staff need to be effective.
Repeatedly, we hear that the networking emerging from Roundtable experiences is some of the best in the field because of the opportunity to work with others on common problems.
Commission Teaching Cases
We produce teaching cases that are based on foundation programs or strategies. Our cases explore key aspects of philanthropy including strategy development and execution, tensions that emerge in aligning evaluation with evolving programs, and more. When taught well, cases promote sound judgement, astute situational analysis, critical thinking, and often creativity.
Carry Out Original Research
We document and study foundation approaches and pivotal issues in the field so people can understand them in a broader context, debate them and make improvements. To this end we:
1. Benchmark foundation practices. Foundations and evaluators have extensively used our benchmarking studies on foundation evaluation to inform practice and the (re)design of foundation operations. Our most recent benchmarking study on how foundations collect and use evaluative information highlighted several important issues, including the expanding role and function of evaluation in foundations.
2. Raise and write about critical issues facing philanthropy. Our studies and work across multiple foundations give us a unique perspective on patterns and trends facing the sector. By raising these issues, we start dialogues that can improve the field. An example of this is "Beyond the Veneer of Strategic Philantropy," published in The Foundation Review that examines four key challenges to strategic philanthropy.
3. Elevate exemplary practice in use at foundations and the underlying concepts and practices supporting them. This work illustrates that solutions can be identified, shared and implemented effectively. An example of this type of work can be found in Practice Matters: The Improving Philanthropy Project, a series of ten issue-focused papers that we commissioned and edited.