Rethinking How Foundations Measure Success: Can Data-Driven Evaluation Hurt Equity?

A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article reports that advocates say “foundations should rethink the way they measure success if they want to achieve progress.”

Jara Dean-Coffey, director of the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, says "a rethinking of the way foundations measure success" is missing from the equity efforts of many grantmakers.

The article reports,

Dean-Coffey and a handful of allies say the traditional approach, with a heavy reliance on surveys and statistical data that boil messy social problems down to numbers, is wholly inadequate. It may be even worse than that, says Dean-Coffey; foundations’ overreliance on an outdated yardstick may actually inflame the disparities they’re trying to address.


"When we do strategy work, we’re able to think about relationships, about context, about nuance, and about culture," Dean-Coffey says. "And then we turn to evaluation and we strip all of that away because we like certainty. We like things that are concrete."

Read the article here.

Note: This article is behind a paywall and available only for subscribers.

Note 2: A group of Equitable Evaluation Initiative (EEI) partners wrote a Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy in response to this piece, as they felt it "mischaracterized their work," according to an email EEI sent to GIA. Read the article here.

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