publication Nov 2022
How to do Process Tracing: A Method for Testing “How Change Happened” in Complex and Dynamic Settings
Process tracing is a causal methodology that can help us to understand how change actually happened within a complex dynamic environment.
insight Aug 2022
Community in Philanthropy: What it is, why we need it, and how we can build it
If we are to meet justice, then we need to hold ourselves accountable in an environment that asks very little of us, and to support and encourage each other when our surroundings try to pull us back toward a status quo.
publication Jul 2022
A Tool for Systems Change that Supports Learning in Foundations
Foundations are systems. They have their own cultures and related assumptions, norms, standards, and practices. We encourage foundations to take stock of their learning needs with a dispassionate (evaluative) look at themselves as systems and how people work within them.
publication Mar 2022
Toward a Trust-Based Framework for Learning and Evaluation
What if we reimagined evaluation as an opportunity for funders to learn and evolve as stewards, rather than taking on the narrow–and virtually impossible–task of proving that limited grants make a measurable impact on longstanding, complex social issues?
insight Feb 2022
How To Center Equity in Measurement, Learning, & Evaluation
NationSwell convened a panel of experts to talk about how organizations should think about equity when engaging with measurement, learning, and evaluation.
publication Jan 2022
Lost Causal: Debunking Myths About Causal Analysis in Philanthropy
Causal analysis is not just for controlled programmatic work, it is also for dynamic and emergent strategies that include network building, field building, advocacy, organizing, or movements.
publication Nov 2021
We need to articulate our assumptions so that we can test them. Here’s a guide to help.
This four-page guidance defines assumptions, explains why it is critical to articulate them, and then offers a set of prompting questions to help elicit them. Examples are included.
publication Aug 2021
Holding Foundations Accountable for Equity Commitments
Philanthropy needs to transform the structures and processes through which foundations hold power, including how they conceive of and operationalize accountability through their approaches to strategy development, evaluation, and grantee reporting and monitoring.
publication May 2021
How Far Dare an Evaluator Go Toward Saving the World?
This article offers raw qualitative data as a supplement to the 2021 article authored by Michael Quinn Patton and published in the American Journal of Evaluation titled: "How Far Dare an Evaluator Go Toward Saving the World? Redux, Update, and a Reflective Practice Facilitation Tool."
publication Apr 2021
Policy Wins Aren’t Enough; We Need Advocacy that Builds Power
While getting policy wins and systems changes is important, what does it mean to center impacted communities as the drivers of change? What does it mean to make building their power the ultimate goal of advocacy work? What does it require of the broader ecosystem of advocacy actors who also are involved in the work? CEI's evaluation report of The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities initiative explores these questions and more.
publication Apr 2021
Approaches to Learning Amid Crises: Reflections from Philanthropy
Explore how foundations’ approaches to learning shaped their responses to the crises of 2020. In interviews with seven foundations from Canada and the U.S. in the summer and fall of 2020, the authors applied the lens of organizational learning to how each of these foundations made sense of their reality, asked different kinds of questions to inform their thinking, and acted in new or different ways as a result.
publication Mar 2021
Tools and Tips for Implementing Contribution Analysis
Get practical lessons on applying contribution analysis to advocacy impact evaluations, especially when dealing with time and resource constraints. Contribution analysis does not seek to "prove" the role of a particular actor or set of actors in bringing about change, but instead to develop a plausible, credible evidence-based narrative to answer causal questions about their influence.