Launch and Achievements

Current Efforts

Most recently, FEAN launched the Call to Action series, highlighting urgent issues and actionable solutions in philanthropic evaluation.

Launch

In June 2017 and with initial support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, we convened a group of 27 leaders of small and midsize evaluation firms and funders to discuss the state of evaluation and test the salience of some key issues proposed by Meg Long of Equal Measure and Clare Nolan of Engage R+D.

The first meeting, held alongside the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations Learning Conference in Chicago, Illinois, affirmed the resonance of those issues among a diverse set of participants. It also underscored and elevated the need for funders and evaluators to work together in new ways to build the shared capacity of philanthropic evaluators — those within philanthropy as well as external consultants.

Building this sort of shared capacity requires a shift in perspective; rather than viewing evaluators as mere contractors, funders must recognize the crucial role evaluators can play in advancing knowledge about how to drive social change most effectively.

Overall, the Affinity Network has been met with great interest and excitement from many people in the philanthropic evaluation field, more than originally anticipated. As we head into the third and fourth years of the Funder Evaluator Affinity Network, we are shifting our emphasis towards action — supporting member action teams — and then beginning to embed aspects of the FEAN effort within existing, mission-, vision-, and values- aligned initiatives or organizations.

Evolution of the Funder Evaluator Affinity Network

Since the inaugural exploratory meeting, the Funder Evaluator Affinity Network has adopted the principle of idea diffusion as our theory of how to shift field practice among evaluators working with, and within philanthropy. Our theory is predicated on having a set of “early adopters” and “influencers” i.e. individuals who have bought into the FEAN agenda early, and for whom advancing this agenda also advances their professional priorities – organizational and/or individual. We view the now 330+ members of the FEAN network as our influencers, and we are looking to network members to begin to act differently because of their engagement with FEAN. We have also seeded some early efforts – the research into past and current talent pipeline programs conducted by the Luminare Group and the piloting of the Evaluation Roundtable expansion by the Center for Evaluation Innovation – to help fuel FEAN member dialogue and action.

Achievements

Since the first convening, the Affinity Network has grown to over 300 members. Along the way, the Network has achieved a variety of accomplishments: