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Activating the Power of Place: A Case Study of Market Creek

This article tells the story of a placed-based initiative to develop well-being and wealth in the historically underserved Diamond Neighborhood in San Diego, and discusses the place-based philosophy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and the foundation’s motivation for place-based work. Its theory of change is presented through examples, along with the entry points the foundation chose for engagement and how it developed community capacity to engage effectively in this change work.





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Evaluating Complexity

While evaluation has traditionally focused on assessing programmatic impact according to pre-determined indicators, a new approach is needed for evaluating complex initiatives, as well as initiatives operating in complex environments where progress is not linear, predictable, or controllable. 9 propositions can help evaluators navigate the unique characteristics of complex systems, improve their evaluation practice, and better serve the needs of the social sector.







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Practice, Practice, Practice: Preliminary Findings From an Evidence-Based Practice Funding Initiative at The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

The Tower Foundation supported a five-year initiative to support the implementation of evidence based practices (EBP). The average award was a three-year award of $84,050. The underlying grantmaking theory of change was that behavioral health providers could bring empirically tested protocols to their communities and sustain them over time if supported by long-term funding to support the real costs of implementation (e.g., training, technical assistance, adherence to program protocols, and cultural change). Grantees cited the high cost of training, certification, and recertification – especially in the face of high staff turnover – as a primary challenge to implementing EBPs. Several Read more





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Designing an Evaluation of a New Initiative: A Practical Approach to Ensure Evaluation Use

This article describes the process of planning an evaluation of the Tribal Tobacco Education and Policy initiative. The initiative was launched in 2007 to reduce tobacco use among American Indians, who disproportionately suffer the negative health effects of tobacco use. The work of the initiative and the evaluation had to incorporate an understanding of tribal structure as well as of the traditional use of tobacco in American Indian sacred ceremonies. The theory of change was conceptualized as circular, rather than linear, in keeping with American Indian philosophical traditions. The planning process, utilizing evaluators familiar with community mobilization and policy evaluation Read more





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Mapping Change: Using a Theory of Change to Guide Planning and Evaluation

This brief guide explains why grantmakers use theories of change to guide their questioning, unearth assumptions that underlie their work, establish common language, and develop strong action plans. Contributors to the guide also describe how a theory of change sets the stage for evaluation by clarifying goals, strategies, and milestones.





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Beyond the Grant: How the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Went Beyond Grantmaking to Contribute to a Major Early Childhood Initiative

Key Points The seven-year SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) initiative, created by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), aimed at systemically linking the pre-K and kindergarten worlds as a way to position vulnerable children for greater success in the early grades. At the foundation, the initiative served as a departure point for WKKF to move from its traditional grantmaking role to a changemaker role. To create change, a foundation must articulate – and commit to – a point of view about how change can occur. A theory of change can be a powerful tool to guide ongoing planning Read more





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Getting to Results: A Tool and Lessons from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s K-12 Education Portfolio

In 2002, the Annie E. Casey Foundation adopted a results-based accountability (RBA) framework to track and report on the results of their philanthropic investments. The RBA tool was piloted in a few program areas, including its K-12 education portfolio. Grantees were highly engaged in an iterative process to determine appropriate measures, refine the theory of change, and how to track progress. Overall, the RBA tool enabled staff to get a sense of how grantees were doing and therefore how the foundation was doing in a way that hadn’t been possible before. The K-12 program got a much clearer sense of Read more





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Going Deeper: Can Investigative Reporters Add Value to Assessment and Evaluation?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supplemented its standard evaluation approach by engaging professional journalists to elaborate on evaluation findings. The resulting reports are more direct, even critical, than any prior Knight Foundation attempt to evaluate and assess. It produced deeper looks into the intent and outcome of major initiatives, analyzing and addressing flaws in the theories of change underlying initiatives. The goal of reaching external audiences was not achieved.