Learning Together: Actionable Approaches for Grantmakers

by Rachel Mosher-Williams; William H. Woodwell, Jr.

May 20, 2015
A majority of grantmakers are struggling to make evaluation and learning meaningful to anyone outside their organizations. Not only is evaluation conducted primarily for internal purposes, but it is usually done by the grantmaker entirely on its own -- with no outside learning partners except perhaps an external evaluator -- and provides little value and may even be burdensome to the grantee. It may be that some funders do not consider expanding the scope of learning efforts beyond their own walls. Or perhaps the gap is driven by funding constraints or funder -- grantee dynamics. In any case, grantees and other stakeholders are critical partners in the achievement of grantmakers' missions and are therefore critical learning partners as well.

In this publication, GEO offers actionable ideas and practices to help grantmakers make learning with others a priority. The publication includes stories about foundations that are learning together with a variety of partners, plus a discussion of the key questions that can help shape successful shared learning. It is based on research and interviews conducted from late 2013 to 2015, including extensive outreach to grantmakers, evaluation practitioners and others. The focus of GEO's inquiry: documenting the challenges facing grantmakers as they set out to learn with others, lifting up what it takes to do this work successfully and identifying grantmakers that show a commitment to learning together.
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