Understanding Our Impact
May 21, 2012
Jim is Irvine’s CEO. A native Californian, he is passionate about the Foundation
User is currently offline
While a number of individual foundations have long focused on assessing the impact of their grants, in recent years the field of philanthropy as a whole has become more interested in this challenging aspect of foundation work. In that context, we were glad to contribute an article in the current issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), as part of a special supplement sponsored by the Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation on “Advancing Evaluation Practices in Philanthropy.” The supplement includes a variety of perspectives on this important and complex subject.
In the article, my colleague Kevin Rafter and I describe our approach to assessing Irvine’s performance using a framework we developed in collaboration with our board of directors eight years ago. The framework provides a method to evaluate our impact across the Foundation, focusing in large part on our programmatic work but also acknowledging that there are other ways to assess the Foundation’s performance. Our SSIR article discusses the lessons we have learned from our foundation-wide approach to performance assessment, and the challenges we continue to face in doing this work.
The supplement also includes articles from my CEO colleagues at the Hewlett, Ford and Rockefeller foundations as well as the Omidyar Network; each of these institutions has grappled with elements of advancing evaluation practice, and there are rich lessons to be learned from their experiences as well.
As we share this article, I would also point you to our 2011 Annual Performance Report, which is the annual report we prepare for our board of directors to describe our progress against our framework. While the primary audience for this document is the Irvine board, we have always shared the report publicly as part of our commitment both to transparency and to learning from others. We hope that by sharing this report publicly, we are not only able to broaden the discussion of Irvine’s performance beyond our own board and staff, but also to contribute to the field’s ongoing conversation about foundation effectiveness.
Our article in Stanford Social Innovation Review is offered in the same spirit. We are persuaded that our commitment to foundation-wide assessment over the past six years has made us a better institution – one that is better able to deliver on our mission of expanding opportunity for the people of California. But we also know that we still have more to learn, and so in that regard, we all very much welcome your comments and suggestions as we continue to refine and improve our approach.