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Strategic Learning & Evaluation

FSG’s Strategic Learning and Evaluation practice helps private, community, family, and corporate foundations, and nonprofits understand the progress and impact of their investments and develop the supports needed to continually learn from their work. We employ a variety of approaches, methods, and processes to provide timely, credible, and useful information and frameworks that our partners can act upon to increase effectiveness and impact.

Strategic Evaluation Client Projects 

Expertise

  • Designing and implementing developmental, formative, and summative evaluations
  • Conducting strategic reviews and evaluations to reflect on past decisions.
  • Building staff and grantee evaluation capacity.
  • Developing an intentional and structured strategy for evaluation of programs and organizations (learning and evaluation systems).
  • Designing and facilitating organizational learning processes, practices, and structures.
  • Acting as a learning intermediary to help organizations develop actionable learning agendas, become a learning organization, and to align monitoring, research, and evaluation activities.
  • Developing shared measurement systems as part of a collective impact initiative or as a means to bring alignment and coordination of data to a group of programs and/or organizations.
  • Providing training, webinars, coaching, and technical assistance to build evaluation capacity of internal and external stakeholders, including grantees.
  • Advancing knowledge in the field through research, tools, guides, reports, and articles.

FSG let us be very involved all along the way and they were open to our feedback. That collaboration made us feel very confident that we would not end up with an evaluation that in some way could be misread. They were very collaborative, very responsible, and very responsive.
Lisa Goldschmidt, Director, Digital
Student Achievement Partners
FSG staff were extremely creative and disciplined in guiding us through a strategy planning process that resulted in a simple framework to capture a very dynamic theory of change. Also, rather than developing a monitoring system that would require a whole new set of activities and tools, they helped us reframe activities and reports we were already engaged with to make them more helpful to us and, more importantly, to our grantee partners.
Lourdes Rivera, Former Senior Program Officer
Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
Ford Foundation
FSG did a top-level job—looking at the big picture, identifying issues, and providing practical guidance to working out problems.
Laura Leviton, Senior Advisor for Evaluation
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
We now have a shared language for talking about strategy, learning, and evaluation. Through our partnership with FSG, we’ve made big gains toward creating a more intentional culture of learning.
Chera D. Reid, PhD
Director of Strategic Learning, Research, and Evaluation
The Kresge Foundation

How We Work

  • We promote stakeholder engagement: We believe that the best approach to evaluation is participatory, learning-oriented, and is timely and relevant to your work. This approach extends to those the foundation wishes to serve, whose voices, needs, and perspectives inform our work.
  • We are committed to equity: We honor the different cultures, values, and contexts in which our clients and their beneficiaries live. We design and implement evaluations in service of equity.
  • We thrive in emergent and complex environments: We have developed evaluation tools and processes that allow us to provide useful support in complex environments where strategies are emergent. We continuously monitor the field for best practices and additional resources to include in our work.
  • We value partnership: We view our work as a deep partnership to help you achieve your goals. Our approach is to help you understand what you need to know and to spark individual, group, and organizational learning.
  • We are dedicated to building the field: We are committed to advancing the practice of learning and evaluation by developing new tools, webinars, white papers, guides, and training materials that support effective strategy and evaluation.

The Evolution of Strategic Learning & Evaluation at FSG

Though FSG initially focused on bringing the analytic rigor of strategy consulting to philanthropy, it soon became clear that strategy alone wouldn’t produce the social impact our clients hoped to achieve.

Our early work with foundations taught us that strategy and evaluation are inextricably linked—strategy establishes the boundaries for evaluation, while evaluation guides the development and refinement of strategy.

In 2006, we led a year-long research effort and wrote From Insight to Action: New Directions in Foundation Evaluation, which sought to demystify evaluation for philanthropy. The report generated a great deal of interest in FSG’s evaluation services, and in response we began to build a world-class strategic learning and evaluation team led by Hallie Preskill, former president of the American Evaluation Association.

The team has completed over 200 evaluation projects to date, and has produced over 30 publications, tools, and resources, which have been downloaded more than 50,000 times. Our work is often cited in the evaluation and social sector fields. We regularly present at conferences sponsored by American Evaluation Association, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Grantmakers in Health, and Council on Foundations. Hallie Preskill is on the editorial board of Foundation Review, American Journal of Evaluation, and the Canadian Journal of Evaluation.

Research and Tools