The purpose of this study was to explore what occurred when a foundation inaugurated an innovative approach to evaluation practice, examining factors that supported and impeded successful implementation. It sought to provide insights into the elements of organizational culture and structures that can support effective practices of evaluation in the foundation sector. The study was a case study of the Evaluators' Consortium, an experimental initiative of the Jim Joseph Foundation, the purpose of which was to improve the Foundation's use of evaluation to support its strategy. The Foundation worked with representatives of four evaluation firms over the course of a year in an emergent style. As the experiment unfolded, the Consortium members helped to shape the cross-community evaluation of the Foundation's multi-year initiative of community-based, Jewish teen education and engagement. Factors that supported the success of the Consortium included the Foundation's standing approach to evaluation, its willingness to take risks, its culture of learning, and its commitment to field building. Leadership was another important factor. The Foundation's professional leader, his commitment to the initiative in particular and to evaluation in general, and his ability to cultivate relationships with others played important roles in the initiative's success. Also critical was the intellectual leadership of Lee Shulman. Another supporting factor was the benefit to the evaluators that came with participation in the initiative. Challenges included logistics, the power differential between the Foundation and participating evaluators, having emergent goals, and bringing together representatives of competing organizations in a cooperative situation. The initiative produced several outcomes for the Foundation and the evaluators. The Foundation developed a number of new evaluation practices and clarified its ideas about effective evaluation practices. Foundation staff members and evaluators developed capacity. Relationships were strengthened between Foundation staff and evaluators and among evaluators and their firms. The initiative created relationships among competitors who entered into collaboration with one another. Through its success with the Consortium, the Foundation was emboldened to consider other new approaches to evaluation. Finally, as a result of the Consortium's work, the Foundation introduced evaluators and high quality evaluation practices to other funders and communities.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Jean King. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 289 pages.
Improving Evaluation Practice in the Foundation Sector: A Case Study of the Jim Joseph Foundation's Evaluators' Consortium.
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