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Transparency for Impact and Learning

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Hallie Preskill, Managing Director at FSG Philanthropy Advisors, recently wrote a transparency-focused call to action in “State of the Work,”. The report focuses on how the philanthropic field can increase its diversity, advance equity, and improve its inclusiveness. You can read the whole report here.

As a long time evaluator who has been deeply committed to using evaluation findings, I am excited when I hear that foundations are looking to be more “transparent” in the ways they do their work, the decisions they make, and what they learn from their evaluation efforts.

Yet, I don’t see much evidence that many are truly embracing this idea of transparency when it comes to sharing evaluation findings and other types of grantmaking data.

While there are many reasons organizations may be hesitant about sharing evaluation results, a true learning organization will understand that with any good evaluation, there are important insights and lessons that deserve to be shared both internally and externally. A learning organization also knows that a good evaluation must start with sound data on who the organization is trying to impact and the contexts in which they operate, including data related to demographics.

This doesn’t mean foundations have to publicize mean scores, quotes from those interviewed, or volumes of evaluation findings. Instead, it means being committed to collecting relevant, credible, and useful information that is strategically informative; being open to sharing what was learned from engaging in the evaluation process in ways that that help others think about their own work more critically; growing and adapting their practices to be more effective; and finding ways to achieve greater social impact. When evaluation and research activities and findings are made transparent, they can be a powerful catalyst for facilitating individual, group, organization, community, and field learning.

This post is originally posted here

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