A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Understanding How We Might Shift the Paradigm: Reflections from the Making the Case Collaboratory

For the past six months, Funders Together to End Homelessness, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), PEAK Grantmaking, and Southern California Grantmakers (SCG) have been on a journey of self-reflection and situational assessment to explore principles from the Equitable Evaluation Framework™ (EEF) and consider long-standing beliefs and assumptions in our learning and evaluation practices that show up as orthodoxies.

 

Together, we launched the Making the Case Collaboratory in February of this year as a learning opportunity to explore the Equitable Evaluation Framework™ (EEF). Our commitment to our membership was to document and share our discoveries, and our hope for other philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) is for this collaborative to serve as a model for PSOs to reimagine not only collaboration on racial equity work and learning opportunities for their members but ideally individual and organizational transformation and greater alignment.

This blog post is the first installment in a two-part series of reflections. In our next blog post, we’ll share reflections from funders across the country that participated in this experience with us.

 

What we explored as PSOs

Over six months, the Equitable Evaluation Initiative team led three learning intensives that bookended monthly peer coaching calls, during which champions from each of the four PSOs learned alongside twenty-one of our members. During these calls, the Equitable Evaluation Initiative team pushed us to uncover and understand assumptions in how we currently think about evaluation while a graphic facilitator, Emily Shepherd, used visuals to reflect our thinking and questions back to us. 

Black illustration on a teal background of how Emily Shepherd approaches her work as a graphic facilitator

In between the three learning intensives, the four organizing PSOs met and shared reflections with one another. Though we are four different philanthropy organizations, we are dedicated to finding ways to collaborate, especially given an overlap in our membership. To that end, we asked ourselves, “What are the assumptions and key questions that underpin our vision for our work?”

In our conversations, we asked each other:

  • What do we currently measure and evaluate, and why? What does that tell us about our values, relationships, voice, and power?
  • How do we shift our internal learning and evaluation to better align with our missions and values and be in service of equity?
  • How do we shift philanthropic culture so that evaluation is in service of equity and reflects equity in its process?

When the change we’re seeking is complex, non-linear, and ongoing, it can be difficult to recognize progress while in process. We unpacked the language we use, and how indicators might be more rigid and less helpful than indications of change. For example, we talked about how, in addition to measuring the “what” of our programming (e.g., what funders are learning and what funders are doing), we can also think about the “how” (e.g., how conversations are changing, how funders are showing up differently in communities). 

With systems change, recognizing progress while engaged in a process can be tricky, but even asking questions like, “Are we grappling with better problems than we were last year? and thinking about those answers indicates forward movement. 

 

“We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.”

 

—Earl C. Kelley, educator, The Workshop Way of Learning

 

 

Looking ahead

Although this six-month learning journey has come to an end, Funders Together to End Homelessness, GEO, PEAK Grantmaking, and Southern California Grantmakers are committed to meeting regularly through the rest of 2021 to continue sharing and learning together, acting as a sounding board for each other, and supporting each other in accountability for field-level change. We welcome you to reach out to us if you’re curious to learn more about our experience in the Making the Case Collaboratory and the ways our being, thinking and doing is evolving as a result.

Several of our members will continue with EEI as Equipping for Transformation Practice Partners, which is a two-year commitment. They join other foundations from around the country as well as a small group of consultants and non-profits engaged in play, practice and praxis as they internalize the principles of the Equitable Evaluation Framework and challenge orthodoxies. 

We are honored to build this field together, and look forward to this wisdom, and the questions, along the way.

 


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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation


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