When Opportunity Knocks, Open the Door: Evaluation Amidst Transition at the Colorado Health Foundation

Published: June 2019

Type: Teaching Case

The Evaluation Roundtable 2019 Convening Teaching Case


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.

The Colorado Health Foundation experienced multiple organizational transitions in a short period of time, including two strategy redesigns, culture and values shifts, new expectations and assumption about roles and performance, and a new CEO. This teaching case invites reflection on the role of evaluation staff and consultants amidst the uncertainty and ambiguity of organizational change.

As transitions occur, evaluation quickly can lose its relevance. Evaluation staff and consultants often struggle to gain the attention of change-weary—or even the most change-energized—strategists. Given that reality, how can the evaluation field more effectively prepare for and manage these transitions while maintaining the quality, rigor, and value of evaluative thinking and data?

This teaching case invites reflection on the dilemmas that mark times of significant organizational change and that are exacerbated by the dynamics of uncertainty, conflicting messages and mindsets, and unclear performance expectations.

An appendix to the case offers a set of themes and guiding questions to guide readers in their reflections on those dilemmas.

Other 2019 Evaluation Roundtable Convening Resources