Community Investments

Evaluation & Learning

The Foundation's evaluation and learning framework helps to guide our approach to meeting the needs of the people of Rhode Island.

We know we cannot do this alone. By creating and supporting a culture of learning here at the Foundation and with our partners in the community we believe we can leverage resources in effective and meaningful ways.

The Foundation’s Principles on Evaluation and Learning for Impact

Not long ago we re-articulated and expanded on our principles for evaluation and learning.

  • Foremost, we recognize that examining the impact of our work is necessary and critical – both for accountability and to inform improvements.
  • We also recognize that understanding the real impact of our investments is difficult given the complexity of the problems that we seek to address. They do not lend themselves to easy answers or quick judgments of success or failure. Evaluation needs to identify which efforts are most successful and the factors that contribute to success.
  • Our investments and leadership efforts are just one influence on any of these complex issues. Therefore when assessing impact, we recognize that our lens is one of contribution rather than attribution.
  • In all of our evaluation activities we remain committed to rigorous, iterative, and data-informed learning.
  • Particular emphasis will be placed on evaluation associated with investments in our strategic initiative areas of Economic Security, Educational Success and Healthy Lives.
  • We also recognize that our process of evaluation needs to be informed by our own learning and, beginning in 2021, started an engagement with other community Foundations in the Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI). Core to EEI is understanding the ways that historical and structural decisions have contributed to inequity, how evaluations activities are designed and implemented, and bringing voice and ownership of all participants, including community members, to evaluation activities. The principles of EEI align with the equity lens we are bringing to other areas of work across the Foundation.
  • Evaluation activities will be used to learn with others, and not simply to inform progress on our own goals. Consistent with concepts of the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, we will apply evaluation processes as a way to support and learn from our partners in the community to achieve shared goals for change.
  • We recognize that not every strategy or approach will always yield success. There will be unanticipated challenges, external diversions, and dynamic realities that will upset even the best-vetted project. We will put failed endeavors to use by capturing lessons learned and ways to achieve better results in the future.
  • We are committed to sharing evaluation findings – on impact, lessons learned, and the mid-course corrections that were needed to right an initiative. While we can’t share all that we learn all of the time, we commit to sharing evidence and stories in accessible formats for our many stakeholders.