Addendum to On the Other Side of Complexity: The McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program

Published: January 2018

Type: Teaching Case

This addendum makes clarifications to the teaching case of The McKnight Foundation's Collaborative Crop Research Program and its evaluation. It adds detail on the program's developmental evaluation.


Teaching cases are factual stories of one foundation’s in-depth experiences related to evaluation and learning. Stories highlight important challenges that confront foundations in their evaluation work, and put readers in the role of decision makers who are confronted with problems and options for solutions as the story unfolds. This teaching case was produced for the Evaluation Roundtable, a network of evaluation and learning leaders in foundations.


In 1993, The McKnight Foundation created a plant biology program that funded nine cross-cultural partnerships between scientists in North America, South America, Asia, and Africa to stimulate research on neglected crops. The Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) was developed over the ensuing two decades and expanded to 70 research projects in West Africa, Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, and the Andes.

While CCRP began as a crop research program, it evolved into a more comprehensive systems change program. This expanded the scope of research and necessitated new approaches. Instead of ending one program and beginning another, CCRP transitioned by investing in grantees from the previous approach and incorporating them with the new. Accordingly, the program’s focus turned to re-conceptualization, innovation, capacity building, and shared learning.

These changes made a developmental evaluation appropriate. However, the developmental evaluation was not defined in the original teaching case. This addendum defines developmental evaluation and addresses questions, concerns, and teaching points related to its CCRP application.