Challenges and Opportunities in Philanthropic Organizational Learning: Reflections From Fellow Grantmakers

As the field of philanthropy has matured, increasing attention has been paid to evaluating the impact of philanthropic investments. In recent years, the scope of evaluation has expanded to include an intentional focus on organizational learning with the goal of learning from ongoing work, informing decision-making, and ultimately improving impact.

With this momentum to carry out organizational learning strategies and share successes, the sector has not yet stopped to reflect on challenges and lessons learned in the process of building the capacity for organizational learning — the messy yet meaningful middle between a desire for learning and the implementation of programing.

Based on interviews with learning, evaluation, and research staff in philanthropy across the country, this article shares stories from the field on lessons learned and mistakes made in philanthropic organizational learning. It identifies points of struggle and opportunities for improvement in organizational learning, as well as what can be learned from mistakes in the process.

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The Foundation Review

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March 30, 2019

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Organization Learning and Evaluation