Issue Briefs

From Contractors to Conduits: An Exploratory Dialogue among Funders and Evaluators

Moore CoPOn June 2, 2017, in Chicago, IL, 27 funders and evaluators from across the country met to discuss the current state of evaluation and learning in philanthropy, explore barriers to greater collaboration and impact, and identify approaches and strategies designed to build the collective capacity of small and mid-sized evaluation firms.

The meeting launched the exploration of three main concerns:

  • Learning and evaluation in philanthropy is changing.
  • There are Concerns about the usefulness and influence of evaluation.
  • Building the evaluation field’s capacity will require new levels of partnership.

In this Issue Brief, we showcase how participants discussed these challenges, and what they identified can be done individually and collectively to influence the factors shaping these issues and improve the overall environment for evaluation and learning in philanthropy.

Engaging Employers in a Cross-sector Postsecondary Attainment Agenda: Lessons from Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment Initiative

Lumina EE Brief CoverLaunched in 2013, Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment (CPA) initiative aimed to deepen the impact of cross-sector, place-based efforts to increase higher education attainment in communities and cities across the country. Lumina’s mission is to expand access and success in education beyond high school, particularly among adults, first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color. This mission is directed toward achieving Goal 2025 – “to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.”

In this Brief, we describe why employers are important to community attainment initiatives, and explore considerations for communities who seek to authentically engage employers in these efforts. Employers often play unique roles to support and pursue strategies for improving postsecondary attainment, along with community partners such as public education, higher education, government, and community based organizations. We discuss how to effectively and authentically engage employers in this work, the unique ways that employers contribute to postsecondary attainment initiatives, and how they fit with the collective efforts underway.

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Advancing Careers and Training (ACT) for Healthcare Through Student Support Services

ACT Brief Cover PageIn 2014, 16 colleges from the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) embarked on a project to develop, improve, and expand adult education and training for healthcare-related occupations. Like many other states across the country, Wisconsin experienced tremendous growth in the healthcare industry over the last 20 years, driven in part by an aging population and associated healthcare needs.

Demand for healthcare workers in Wisconsin continues to grow, with jobs projected to increase to nearly 437,000 by 2024, representing a faster 10-year growth rate (13.5 percent) than any other major Wisconsin industry. A key strategy pursued by ACT for Healthcare colleges – and the focus of this Issue Brief – is the delivery of various support services to improve healthcare students’ success in completing industry-recognized credentials in Nursing, Medical Assistant, Gerontology, and other high-demand fields.

The information we present in this Brief is based on qualitative and quantitative data collected on student support services, as part of the third-party evaluation of the ACT for Healthcare initiative. As part of these data collection efforts, we conducted site visits in 2016 to 15 colleges, 3 facilitating in-person interviews and focus groups with key ACT for Healthcare support services staff, project leaders, faculty, and administrators.

This Issue Brief is structured as follows:

  • Section 1: An overview of national research on support services and student success, with a focus on technical and community colleges.
  • Section 2: A typology of the various supports offered at ACT for Healthcare colleges, providing a description of each approach, and presenting examples from various colleges to highlight promising practices.
  • Conclusion: A summary and overview of next steps for the evaluation.

Cultivating Systems Leadership in Cross-sector Partnerships: Lessons from the Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence

Irvine Brief Cover PageInvestments in the social sector have become increasingly complex, with many foundations shifting from supports for single organizations toward more systemic strategies focused on improving outcomes for entire communities. As a result, the field has become awash in regional, or place-based, investments that rely on cross-sector partnerships and networks to drive change. These efforts require coordination among stakeholders across all levels of the practice and policy continuum – from direct service providers, to nonprofit intermediaries, funders, advocacy organizations, and policymakers.

It is in this context, and in the spirit of continuous learning, that The James Irvine Foundation’s Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence investment serves as a systems change experiment, offering insights and critical lessons that can inform others undertaking similar work. The aim of this Issue Brief – authored by Equal Measure and Harder+Company – is to contribute to field dialogue and learning about the role of leadership in complex systems change strategies, particularly those focused on producing equitable impacts in college and career readiness.

Equal Measure and Harder+Company serve as the evaluators of The James Irvine Foundation’s Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence. They work in partnership with Jobs for the Future, the intermediary and technical assistance provider for this initiative.

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Pathways to Progress: A Tangible Impact on Youth Economic Opportunity

Citi P2P Issue Brief_062917In 2014, the Citi Foundation launched Pathways to Progress, a three-year, $50 million initiative in the U.S. to help 100,000 low-income youth, ages 16 to 24, develop the workplace skills and leadership experience needed to compete in a 21st Century economy.

To achieve its ambitious goal, the Foundation enacted a multi-tiered strategy focused primarily in ten cities: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The strategy included an investment in five flagship organizations representing different program “pathways” designed to have a longstanding impact on a youth’s economic well-being, presented in Figure 1. Complementing the flagship organizations, the Citi Foundation also invested in national and local organizations as part of Pathways to Progress, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the National Academy Foundation, and the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues.

This Issue Brief is the fourth and final in the Pathways to Progress series. In this Brief, we focus on the impact of the five flagship Pathways to Progress grantees on the youth they have served, and provide a retrospective look at the progress and select lessons from the first three years of the investment.

Incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in a Cross-Sector Postsecondary Attainment Agenda

Lumina Brief cover pageLaunched in 2013, Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment (CPA) initiative aimed to deepen the impact of cross-sector, place-based efforts to increase higher education attainment in communities and cities across the country. The goal of the 75-city CPA initiative was to strengthen place-based, cross-sector attainment efforts while better integrating the organizations working on them, and the knowledge gained from them. The investment combined grant support, technical assistance from a cadre of national experts experienced in community collaboration and postsecondary attainment strategies, a cohort model for grantee learning, and communications support to increase the visibility and impact of communities’ work.

The CPA investment prioritized three pillars:

  • Partnership Health. Community partners must work collaboratively to set and achieve common goals, use agreed-upon accountability tools and measures, and use data to make decisions about program direction and design.
  • Equity. Communities need to identify and develop action plans to address chronic attainment gaps between populations, particularly between racial and ethnic groups.
  • Attainment. Communities must address both access and success for students, with the ultimate objective of increased postsecondary completion.

This Issue Brief focuses on the second CPA pillar – Equity. In this Brief, we discuss how CPA communities have interpreted this pillar, describe how they have applied this principle to influence their partnership and attainment efforts, and discuss what other communities, funders, educators, and community-change stakeholders can learn from their experiences. We draw from data collected through interviews with representatives from all 75 communities shortly after receiving CPA funding, visits to 14 communities, and followup interviews with 10 communities focused specifically on the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Pathways to Progress: Forging Strategies to Broaden Impact

In 2014, the Citi Foundation launched Pathways to Progress, a three-year, $50 million initiative in the United States to help 100,000 low-income youth – ages 16 to 24 – to develop the workplace skills and leadership experience necessary to compete in a 21st century economy. Since its launch, Pathways to Progress investments have enabled the five U.S. based grantees to create new programming, augmented or altered existing program models, and substantially expanded their reach, affecting greater numbers of youth.

In this Issue Brief, we describe how the grantees are scaling their program models to enhance their reach. To provide context for the grantees’ work in this area, we draw from literature on the topics of scaling, local program adaptation, partnerships, and data-informed programming, as well as a series of interviews we conducted with leaders of organizations that have successfully scaled their programs, and key influencers in the youth development and economic opportunity fields (“bellwethers”).

Catalyzing Change in STEM Teaching: Lessons from the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Postsecondary Strategy

Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has committed more than $1.5 billion dollars to nonprofits and other mission-aligned organizations in the United States and around the world. Helmsley’s postsecondary grantmaking focuses on increasing the number of college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields – particularly female students and students of color. The portfolio focuses on supporting networks of higher education institutions committed to improving instructional practices, primarily for gateway STEM policies, practices, and systems that can help improve student retention and completion.

As the STEM Active Learning Networks evaluation and learning partner, Equal Measure is tracking the impact of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s postsecondary grantmaking on faculty, departmental, and institutional change across networks.

This Issue Brief is based on data gathered through semi-annual interviews with network leads, observations from investment-wide and individual network convenings, and findings from grantee and network member focus groups.


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