Most recently, FEAN launched the Call to Action series, highlighting urgent issues and actionable solutions in philanthropic evaluation.
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.
Since the first convening, the Affinity Network has grown to over 300 members. Along the way, the Network has achieved a variety of accomplishments:
- Raised awareness of this effort and the issues it seeks to address by providing updates on our work on blogs hosted :
- The Center for Effective Philanthropy, The Keys to True Social Sector Impact? Evaluation and Continuous Learning.
- Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Strengthening the Field of Philanthropic Evaluation
- Glasspockets by Candid, Putting a Stop to Recreating the Wheel: Strengthening the Field of Philanthropic Evaluation.
- the American Evaluation Association.
- Hosted discussions at the annual American Evaluation Association (AEA) conferences in 2017 and 2018 and at the April 2018 conference of the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) attended by 80 to 100 people each, including both new and returning participants.
- Conducted a survey of network members in which more than 40 individuals responded and shared actions and solutions in support of the FEAN agenda.
- Authored a Foundation Review article describing the evolution of this effort and sharing actions and solutions sourced through the survey as a way of sharing the knowledge being developed through this effort and catalyzing further field advancement.
- Established a partnership with the Luminare Group to conduct an analysis of current practices and investments related to enhancing the nature of and access to the supply of evaluators in philanthropy and development of recommendations for improving the field.
- Established a partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation to test an expansion of the Evaluation Roundtable model to help senior and emerging evaluators better understand and navigate foundations; increase the diversity of skilled and effective evaluators working in philanthropy; and build a collaborative network of evaluators working in philanthropy. we have completed the following activities in support of this objective.
- Created a mechanism to support coordination across the Center for Evaluation Innovation, Luminare Group, and the Equitable Evaluation Initiative to and ensure our process is attentive to diversity, equity, and inclusion principles rather than reinforcing existing structural inequities.
- Broadened the base of funding support for FEAN and partner efforts to include:
- The California Endowment
- The California Health Care Foundation
- The Ford Foundation
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
- The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
- The MacArthur Foundation
- The Minnesota Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund
- The James Irvine Foundation
- The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
- The Walton Family Foundation