Strategies

Convening

We believe one of the most radical things we can do is to connect people. New introductions spark change. We organize formal and informal opportunities to convene foundation leaders and evaluators so that they can learn from each other and accomplish more together.

Evaluation fields advance when people come together and share what they are doing and learning. Sector practice evolves when these experiences are collaborative and more inclusive. 
Our convenings are unlike conferences where participants are passive listeners. We organize events where attendees work together to address real-life challenges in their day-to-day work. We dedicate substantial time for digging in to both conceptual questions and practical solutions.
Because the evaluation field in philanthropy is too small, insular, and homogenous, our convenings aim to widen and diversify the circle of people who have opportunities to contribute and connect. Our convenings can be small or large. They can be in-person or virtual. They can be one-time events or more regular gatherings that support the longer-term development of networks or communities.

Our Work in Action

Evaluation Roundtable Convenings

We convene the Evaluation Roundtable network every 18 months for in-person peelearning around a particular theme. Every convening features the use of teaching cases, or factual stories of one foundation’s in-depth experiences related to the convening theme. 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. When taught during Roundtable convenings, cases promote sound judgment, astute situational analysis, critical thinking, and creativity. 

CEI's EVAL logo. A four-letter, 2x2 block with EV at the top and AL at the bottom, in CEI's colors (indigo, purple, pink, light indigo).

Funder Communities of Learning and Action

As part of our Evaluation Roundtable, CEI convenes small, time-delimited groups of funders around key questions that are important for philanthropy to grapple with, get deeper on, and use to spur the learning and action of the philanthropic sector. We believe that if something is unlocked in our learning and action around those key questions, then we as a group have the potential to spur transformative change in the philanthropic sector with deep and lasting ripple effects.

These funder groups of learning and action take two forms:

Regional: Funders from a state or region come together around the question: How can we come together as grantmakers to shift practice so that our strategy, learning, and evaluation efforts advance racial equity and justice? We co-host regional communities in North Carolina, with North Carolina Network of Grantmakers, and Texas, with Good Measure, so that the work stays grounded and learning is stewarded beyond the end of our community.

Topical: Funders who are grappling with something tangible in their work come together to workshop their questions, spur each other’s thinking, and plan for action with the goal of transforming something in their institutions and, by coming together around this topic, plant seeds to shift sector-wide practice that will better move philanthropy towards racial equity and justice. We have come together around demographic data in the past and are actively seeking different topics we might convene around.

Past Work

Equitable Evaluation Convening

Alongside our partners at the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, we are committed to building a more equitable evaluation field that uses evaluation as a tool for advancing equity. With Luminare Group and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, we helped to launch this initiative with field research that produced an initial framing of equitable evaluation principles and practices and a convening of evaluators and funders to vet and add to them. 

Lab for Learning

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and in collaboration with colleague Jane Reisman, we designed a year-long series of convenings to support a cohort of 15 foundations working to address systemic barriers to learning. Our goal is to produce practical and actionable guidance for foundation staff who support learning internally in foundations and externally with grantees and other partners. Convened several times both in-person and virtually, the lab requires cohort participants to experiment with ideas for supporting learning in their own settings and then share their experiences with the group.