Julia Coffman, Center for Evaluation Innovation, October 2019

If we want evaluation to add real value to social change efforts, both funders and evaluation consultants have to re-examine their roles and how they relate.

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This entry is part of a series of evaluator responses to critiques of evaluation and our visions for a better future. Read more about the reason for this blog and the other responses here.

“Funders are from Mars, Consultants are from Venus” is a comment made by one of the attendees at our most recent Evaluation Roundtable convening. The Evaluation Roundtable is an informal network of foundation leaders in evaluation that aims to improve evaluation and learning practice in philanthropy. …


October 2019

In collaboration with evaluation and learning leaders in fourteen foundations, we experimented with how to integrate learning into the way philanthropy works. Our “Lab for Learning” revealed several ideas about what it takes.

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The W.K. Kellogg Foundation supported this work.


Tanya Beer, Center for Evaluation Innovation

Developmental evaluation requires changing the way evaluation commissioners and evaluators work together. If it feels like business as usual, you’re probably not doing it.

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On May 31, 2019, Community Science sponsored the webinar “Developmental Evaluation: Rewards, Perils, and Anxieties.” A foundation officer (Kristi Ward, Bush Foundation) and two evaluators (Kien Lee, Community Science and Tanya Beer, Center for Evaluation Innovation) discussed what developmental evaluation is intended to be and the realities of practicing it. This article is based on Tanya Beer’s introductory comments.

First, let me clarify that this is not an introduction to developmental evaluation (DE). I am assuming you’ve done some thinking and reading, and perhaps even working, on developmental evaluation. [If not, start here and then come back and read this before you commission or conduct a developmental evaluation.] …


Julia Coffman, Center for Evaluation Innovation, June 2018

Establishing a learning organization or culture is such a big goal that it can overwhelm our ability to act on it. Building learning habits into common routines makes it more manageable, creating small wins that can lead to big change.

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Last year I confessed to having outdated work habits. In an article about learning and the way we work, I admitted:

“I carry two notebooks of different sizes with green narrow-ruled paper that I special order…one contains my weekly to-do list, and the other is for taking notes. I have a weekly at-a-glance paper calendar with a black vinyl cover. …


Julia Coffman, Center for Evaluation Innovation, May 2018

It was the worst U.S. maritime disaster in three decades, involving an experienced captain with a reputation for safety. What went wrong and what can this teach us about the often-overlooked factors that affect our learning and decisions?

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I was flying across the country to attend the annual Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference where we were doing a session on embedding learning into the way we work. Settled in for the 6-hour flight, I pulled out my favorite traveling companion — Vanity Fair. …


Julia Coffman, Center for Evaluation Innovation, July 2017

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Last year I wrote about my rocky relationship with sticky notes. Actually, it was more about the expanding role of evaluators who work in philanthropy, and the challenge of trying to meet the many demands that accompany that role. Facilitating group learning (often using sticky notes) is a recent skill evaluators have had to hone, and as an introvert I reflected on my own struggles with this extroverted role.

Since then, after facilitating many more “learning meetings” and continuing to invest heavily in the sticky note industry, we at the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI) have been studying and thinking much more about what it takes to support learning in philanthropy. We define learning as the use of data and insights from a variety of information-gathering approaches — including monitoring and evaluation — to inform thinking and decision-making. …


Julia Coffman, Center for Evaluation Innovation, April 2016

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There I was, stuffing sticky notes and Sharpies into a Ziploc bag. And staring back at me, in sharp neon relief, was the realization that my job as an evaluator had changed. Big time.

But before I get to that, let me offer some background. While I haven’t done any scientific research on this, I’ve done a good amount of asking around. And I’d posit that if you mapped the personality types of evaluators, a pretty sizable chunk would fall into what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality inventory calls the INTJ type.

The letters stand for Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, and Judging. …

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Center for Evaluation Innovation

We believe in the transformative power of evaluation and learning.

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