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Our Shared Approach to CREE
By Crislin Christian

Director Michael P. Arnold's Expanding the Bench® (ETB) CREE Learning Series videos "showcase learnings and offer new ideas and fresh perspectives on approaching CREE-focused work."

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Sharing Our New Homes
By Natalie Blackmur

In the midst of all this transition, we’ve been thinking a lot about what “home” means to us. Is it the stuff and the papers we’ve held onto all these years? Is it the restaurants we love nearby, that we associate with happy hour or a quick bite in between analysis meetings? Is it the pictures that hang on the…

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We’re in this.

It’s been a tough few weeks. A tough couple of months. And for many, especially our Black colleagues and friends, it’s always been tough. State-sanctioned police terror and murder never relents—not for George Floyd, not for Breonna Taylor, not for countless others. It’s devastating that it took so much pain for the sweeping calls to action we’re now seeing. And…

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Collaborating Within to Support Systems Change
By Natalie Blackmur

Now available in the Foundation Review! We’re pleased to announce the publication of “Collaborating Within to Support Systems Change: The Need For — and Limits of — Cross-Team Grantmaking,” co-authored by Director Anjie Rosga, Senior Associate Theresa Esparrago Lieu, and Communications Manager Natalie Blackmur with our colleagues Anna Cruz and Chris Kabel at the Kresge Foundation. This article arose out…

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Strategy and Evaluation Tools for Rapidly Changing Conditions
By Anjie Rosga

I felt an immediate sense of identification when I read this recent tweet by Jara Dean Coffey: “I am a privileged non essential knowledge worker” Sitting with this as being part of my truth. — Jara Dean-Coffey (@jdeancoffey) April 17, 2020 These days, it’s hard to look beyond what’s right in front of us. Rapid assessment and scenario planning can help. I’ve found…

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Giving Back with Asylum Access and Not In Our Town
By Natalie Blackmur

On August 16, we celebrated our late CEO Ellen Irie’s birthday. We called it Ellen Day and marked the occasion by inviting two local nonprofits to an afternoon of pro-bono consultation. “Consulting Cafes” were a tradition Ellen started last year on our 20th anniversary, and it was her vision that we continue to give our time to organizations with small…

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What’s next in our exploration of distributed leadership
By Natalie Blackmur, Michael Arnold, and Michael Courville

This past year, we released a series of case studies on how different organizations are distributing leadership—that is, how they bring more of their staff into decision-making processes. Along with our partners at the Hewlett Foundation and Open Mind Consulting, we learned a ton about how these organizations share information, authority, and responsibility to make distributed leadership work. But learning…

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Where We Are, Where We’re Going

In 2019, we’ve taken time to reflect, care for ourselves, and look ahead. We wanted to share a bit about where we’ve been this year, and where we hope to go. We’ve had plenty to celebrate so far. Among the highlights, we’ve been working inside and out to strengthen our commitments to inclusion and racial equity. We’re exploring new opportunities…

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Sharing the loss of Ellen Irie, our President & CEO

With deep sadness, we’re writing to share that Ellen Irie passed away Thursday, November 22, 2018 surrounded by her husband, Don, and her boys, Cole and Cory. We loved Ellen. We already miss her. Ellen was Informing Change’s President and CEO. For us, that meant she was a grounded leader, a helpful friend, and a trusted confidante. She was uncompromising…

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Informing Change Is Out & About This Conference Season
By Rebekah Blume

Informing Change is out and about this conference season! This year our staff will be traveling to conferences in the United States and Canada to discuss with our colleagues in the social sector our pressing questions about the role of evaluation in informing just and compassionate change. To this end, on October 31, Informing Change staff members Anjie Rosga, Michael…

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Celebrating 20 Years of Informing Change
By Ellen Irie

This October, we’re celebrating 20 years of Informing Change. For the past two decades, our company’s founding values of intelligence, integrity, and compassion have guided everything we do, from who we work with, to the way we do our work. When we added the pursuit of social justice to our values in 2015, we did so to make explicit what has…

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Data Capacity Building Lessons Learned
By Kris Helé

More than ever, nonprofits need to assess, reflect on, sharpen and communicate about their work—to better meet their missions, satisfy demands from multiple stakeholders and ensure their sustainability. In this context, data are becoming increasingly valuable as currency across the nonprofit world. Yet, nonprofits’ ability to collect, understand and use data often falls far behind the needs. Most nonprofits stand…

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Developmental Evaluation: What It Is & When to Use It
By Natalie Blackmur

When complex, external factors—ranging from policies and economic shifts to technological advances and environmental changes—come crashing through a program’s implementation, data from a traditional, summative evaluation can become obsolete and even counter-productive. Enter developmental evaluations, which deliver feedback on how an intervention fits within the broader system it’s trying to affect and, in turn, reveal pathways for change that more…

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A Q&A with Our Newest Director, Michael Arnold
By Natalie Blackmur

This fall, Dr. Michael P. Arnold joined the Informing Change team, and after a few weeks of settling in, he and I sat down to chat about why strategic learning and evaluation are important, and what motivates and shapes the way he does his work. What drives you to help organizations evaluate and learn about their work? I have a deep…

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Our Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Election

Our heads are spinning and our hearts are heavy. Rather than celebrating a shattered glass ceiling, we feel the weight of a lower one bearing down on us. This election is a reminder that real change is almost never linear and steady. It happens in fits and spurts—in maddening steps backward for every relentless push forward. This week, we have…

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Tools for Building a Data-Driven Culture
By Sheila Walsh

The California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) funded Center for Care Innovations (CCI) to develop a 14-month, cohort-based learning program for safety net healthcare organizations to strengthen their data analytics capabilities to improve patient care. CCI recently launched datadrivenculture.org, which adapts SNAP’s curriculum and learning tools into an online, webinar format for any organization to use. There are videos and tools…

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Informing Change’s AEA Preview
By Ellen Irie

The air is crisp and the days are shorter, which means at Informing Change, we’re working hard to prepare for AEA 2016. This year, Senior Associate Theresa Esparrago Lieu, Director Anjie Rosga and I will be traveling to Atlanta to compare notes with evaluators from around the world on what can happen when we bring design and evaluation together to…

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New Insights on Technical Assistance for Expanded Learning Programs
By Ria Sengupta Bhatt

Last month, organizations across the US celebrated Summer Learning Day, a nationally recognized day to raise awareness and support for summer learning and enrichment. We, along with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, commemorated the day by releasing More Than Supply and Demand: The State of Technical Assistance for Expanded Learning Programs in California. In our nine-year engagement with the…

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Bringing Together Evaluation Theory and Practice
By Alana Kinarsky

As a graduate student in evaluation, I find myself often pondering how research on evaluation can or should enrich evaluation practice. So, during my summer internship at Informing Change, I organized a pop-up journal club—an opportunity for evaluators to read and discuss evaluation research with their colleagues. I circulated a few theory papers via email and the group elected to…

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21st Century Civic Infrastructure: We Must Build It So All Can Come
By Jill Blair

The recently-released monograph by Jill Blair and Malka Kopell The collective impact movement is beginning to shift the landscape of place-based investment. It is proving its greatest value as a formula for building community capacity to solve public problems. However, in order for communication, resources and action to move across the various players in collective impact efforts, a healthy civic…

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Navigating Relationships in Philanthropy-Consulting Partnerships

Navigating the power dynamics between consultants, grantees and funders is already a challenge with any consulting engagement. Add to those relationships a partnership and consultants’ existing relationships with funders and grantees, and communication and transparency between all parties become more important than ever. By Natalie Blackmur A funder should not assume that each consultant in a partnership has the same…

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Essential Elements to Philanthropy-Consulting Partnerships

Our primary motivation for publishing our article about philanthropy-consulting partnerships in the Foundation Review was to start the conversation on what makes a good partnership. Without the following essential elements for success, philanthropy-consulting partnerships risk becoming burdensome and ineffective for both the funder and the consultants. By Natalie Blackmur A funder’s decision to tap a philanthropy-consulting partnership for a project should be…

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Benefits of Philanthropy-Consulting Partnerships

To accompany our Foundation Review article, we’re doing a series of mini-infographics on philanthropy-consulting partnerships. Why engage in a philanthropy-consulting partnership? Here’s our answer: By Natalie Blackmur Consultants often reach out to one another in order to take on a project they couldn’t take on alone. This gives each consultant experience he or she wouldn’t otherwise have. For funders, not…

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The Two Types of Philanthropy-Consulting Partnerships

Over the years we’ve had both productive and challenging experiences working with other consultants on philanthropy projects. Based on these experiences, and in talking with other consultants in the field, we realized there’s a noticeable gap in the literature on how to navigate these philanthropy-consulting partnerships. This prompted us to write an article for the Foundation Review to spark the…

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Meet Our New Director, Anjie Rosga!
By Natalie Blackmur

As part of welcoming our new director, Anjie Rosga, to the Informing Change family, I sat down with her to chat about what she’s bringing to our practice, why she’s committed to evaluation and learning and what makes the Bay Area home for her. What most excites you about working at Informing Change? The way Informing Change aligns its mission and values externally and…

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Sample Size, Kids and Bears, Oh My: Part Two
By Sheila Walsh

Sample Size and Representativeness When it comes to how big a survey sample should be, a couple of factors come into play. In my last post, I talked about the importance of power in statistical significance tests. In sum: a bigger sample is usually better—there’s more of an opportunity to discern relationships. However, if we have a big sample but only…

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Sample Size, Kids and Bears, Oh My: Part One
By Sheila Wilcox

Sample Size and Power I get this question all the time: “How many survey respondents do we need?” The short answer: as many as resources allow. Here’s the long answer: There are two aspects that play into how big your sample size should be: statistical significance and representativeness. Today, let’s talk about statistical significance. For example, let’s find out if American…

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The Eye of the Innovation Storm
By Regina Sheridan

I live in the eye of an innovative storm. The push for innovative thinking and “disruptive” technologies is almost palpable in the San Francisco Bay Area. With Silicon Valley heavyweights churning out new technologies, top-tier universities training young professionals with skills of the future, and leading healthcare institutions pioneering cutting-edge research, I am often amazed by the brilliant ideas introduced…

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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Giving Thanks for our Female Leadership
By Amanda Guslani

As many individuals and organizations around the world continue to celebrate Intentional Women’s Day, I’m personally reminded of how our clients and colleagues inspire change for women around the world. At Informing Change we work with our partners in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to address issues of access in education, health, leadership, and beyond, including many organizations that specifically…

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Civic Engagement: Acts both Big & Small
By Naomi Orensten

Much of our work here at Informing Change is focused on civic engagement and volunteerism. Our clients utilize civic engagement strategies to develop leaders, change public policy, promote cross-sector collaboration, and more. They embrace volunteerism as a tool for social change, to improve people’s lives and to make a difference in our communities. So, it’s not a surprise that sometimes…

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2013 in Review: Informing Change Near and Far
By Evan A. Gattozzi

What a year it has been! 2013 ushered Informing Change into our new look and name, taking us across the U.S. to work with you—our clients—to advance your missions and create change. Here are some highlights of our travels and learnings. We hit the road on a three-city tour with our partner, ChangeCraft (formerly the Center for Leadership Initiatives), and…

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Cooking Up Successful Long-term Partnerships
By Kim Ammann Howard

Strong partnerships with our clients are essential to our collective success. This is especially true with long-term evaluations, which unfold over time as their focus, needs and contexts change. For these partnerships to be most effective, we have noted a few essentials ingredients. √ Essential Ingredient #1: Thought Partnership It is critical that both the client and evaluator approach one…

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Informing Change’s Theory of Change Process

What It Is A theory of change is a tool to help organizations articulate their social change initiatives. A  theory of change is a clear articulation of the problem an organization or program is setting out to address; the strategies it employs to address the problem; the target constituencies (organizations and/or individuals that will be reached by the strategies); and…

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The Satisfaction of Creating a Theory of Change
By Tina Cheplick

I’ve always enjoyed cleaning out a messy drawer or cupboard—pulling everything out, sorting the contents by category or size, choosing which items to discard and which to keep, and then putting things back in an orderly way. Sometimes the process reveals a new way to stack or arrange things, or prompts me to acknowledge that some things no longer belong…

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Journey of Informing Change
By Ellen Irie

  Not many people know that when our founders brainstormed a name for the company, one of the options they considered was Informing Change. For me, rebranding and adopting Informing Change as our name circles back to the company’s roots and reaffirms our very purpose for being. Our purpose is the reason why I embraced the position of leading this…

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Surveys – Here, There and Everywhere
By Sheila Wilcox

Virtually everyone asks you to take a survey—your job, restaurants, stores, schools, airports and the list goes on. It’s been reported that American adults are invited to take surveys 7 billion times a year. There have even been surveys about what people think of surveys (they’re not too crazy about them)! Not too long ago, surveys were generally reserved for…

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Reflections on the Affordable Care Act
By Kris Helé

I recently attended a wonderful lecture through UC Berkeley Extension by UCB Public Health Professor William Dow. “Health Care Reform Update: Post-Affordable Care Act (ACA) Progress and Challenges” was an unexpectedly satisfying way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. It was a quick, digestible run-down of what health care reform entails, what’s been implemented to date and what’s coming in…

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How are you creating a healthier future?
By Amanda Guslani

This week marks the 19th National Public Health Week, a week dedicated to recognizing the contributions of public health and ways to improve our nation’s health. This year’s theme, “Public Health is ROI: Save Lives, Save Money,” emphasizes the value of prevention and the importance of well-supported public health systems in preventing disease, saving lives and curbing health care spending.…

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Health and Happiness at Any Age
By Nadia Salibi

Ida, you’re my hero! At 97 years young you are doing things that I can only hope to do in the prime of my life. As Lisa Ling chronicles your life in Our America I watched in awe as you ran the 100 meter dash alongside 20 year olds while breaking your own record. Your ability to stay mobile and…

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What Data Can Do
By Naomi Orensten

David Brooks piece on the limitations of data in The New York Times hits on many of the real challenges and limitations of quantitative data collection and analysis that evaluators and consultants, like us here at Informing Change, face regularly. For example, numbers can miss nuance, big data are messy and sometimes interpreters of data look for what they want…

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Education Should Dismantle Barriers, Not Fortify Them
By Jay Sherwin

A recent New York Times story by Jason DeParle offers a moving portrait of three smart and ambitious young women, friends from Galveston, Texas, with dreams of a better life. All three enrolled in college but, five years later, none has graduated. All three are back in Galveston, working, paying off their debts and no doubt wondering how things might…

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Will More Information Make Philanthropy Smarter?
By Naomi Orensten

It’s no secret that many of us evaluators and planners love data. Accessible and reliable data organized in standardized formats and presented in visually appealing ways makes us giddy. Yet, the philanthropic community suffers from a lack of up-to-date and readily available grantmaking data—data that have the potential to inform the work of nonprofits, funders, researchers and academics. That is…

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A School District Invests in Male Student Success
By Jay Sherwin

Occasionally, we are lucky enough to meet colleagues or participate in programs that help us to look at familiar problems with new perspective and new insights. I recently had the opportunity to re-examine an issue I’ve considered for many years: How can we help young men of color to succeed in school and thrive in the world beyond school? As…

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The Blind Men & the Elephant
By Naomi Orensten

While we rarely think about it as an evaluation or planning tool, poetry can open space for broader thinking and understanding to inform more strategic action. The poem below serves as a powerful and humble reminder that seldom do we see the full picture. What we see with our own eyes is in fact an interpretation of our own limited…

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Teaching Through Text?
By Jamie Elmasu

In this digital age, texts, tweets, apps and tags are becoming a main mode of communication for youth. Technology is becoming less bound to desks and is more mobile, accessible and versatile. More and more youth are beginning to own some type of mobile device. According to a new report by the World Bank, about three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants…

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The Gold Standard
By Kris Helé

For the past two weeks, the greatest athletes in the world competed on the world’s greatest stage. The lion’s share of more than 3,500 hours of live Olympic coverage focused on the thrill of victory, the medal count and the athletes who overcame considerable obstacles to excel in their respective sports. So why can’t I stop thinking about the agony…

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My Mechanic Tells Me More About Costs Than My Healthcare Provider
By Nadia Salibi

Last week, my car broke down. There was absolutely no ignition noise when I turned the key. After calling a local auto shop and describing my car problem, the mechanic told me to bring it in for further examination. I immediately became tense; all I could think about was the out-of-pocket cost. I asked if he could refrain from doing…

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Let’s not Forget About “Small p” Partnerships
By Kim Ammann Howard

Flying back from the Grantmakers for Effective Organization’s National Conference, I reflected on the conversations I had about how to support nonprofits to enhance their effectiveness. I was particularly struck by the last session, “Can’t We All Play Nice: Reducing Government Barriers to Working with Nonprofits,” which highlighted the disproportionate amount of nonprofit support from the public sector as compared…

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Evaluation Beyond Accountability
By Ria Sengupta Bhatt

For those of us immersed in the evaluation field, we know that a well-executed evaluation can do much more than serve as a method of accountability or fulfill a requirement. Especially in the field of philanthropy, a comprehensive evaluation can facilitate continuous learning within foundations and the field at large, increase the effectiveness of a grantmaking strategy, and increase innovation.…

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Where are the Impact Measurements in Corporate Giving Programs?
By Regina Sheridan & Gagandeep Kaur

The corporate world is notorious for collecting metrics to guide their business strategy. This is evident by executives’ fixation on cost-benefit analyses, return on investment reports and performance measurements. However, this rigor often seems to be absent when it comes to corporate giving programs. A report by the Global Reporting Initiative, the University of Hong Kong and CSR Asia notes…

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Evaluating Networks: Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bath Water
By Kim Ammann Howard

While the importance of networks to advance social change seems well accepted, how to assess their effectiveness is not. In a recent webinar I held on cultivating networks with Claire Reinelt from the Leadership Learning Community and Melanie Moore from See Change, many participants asked questions about measurement. How do we know if the networks have an impact? What is…

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Bringing Method to the Madness
By Kris Helé

My college basketball brackets have busted. I’m disgusted and embarrassed. Why is it that people who select their brackets on the basis of uniform colors or mascots tend to do just as well or better than those who spend hours poring over stats or those who have at least a basic understanding of sports? “They call it March Madness for…

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I Disagree with Agreement Scales
By Sheila Wilcox

I was reminded recently, when my project team switched the response scale for a survey question from an agreement scale to a frequency scale that, too often evaluators focus on developing survey questions while giving less attention to response options. When agreement scales are used as the fail safe response option, the result can be high-quality questions without the most…

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A Funder’s Guide to Protecting Human Rights
By Ria Sengupta Bhatt

The topic of human rights protection often evokes images of poor and disadvantaged individuals and the activities conducted and laws passed to ensure that they are not mistreated. A less common image is that of evaluators collecting data from and about these very same individuals, yet this is also a real piece in the human rights protection puzzle. Evaluations of…

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Purpose & Humility
By Ellen Irie

In the past few days, we have been drawn to the somber news of Steve Jobs’ passing. We listen to the story of his life, finding inspiration from its twists and turns. Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address, in particular, caught my attention, with its straight-forward references to the certainty of death and how to gain inspiration from death’s imminence. “If…

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A Well-Stocked Tech Toolbox is Only Half the Battle
By Evan Gattozzi

Technology is one of my favorite things. I love to “geek-out” and have conversations about how to use new technology in evaluation projects, such as new updates to online survey software and social media tracking strategies for community organizing projects. My technology toolbox is well stocked and constantly growing. Often I am tempted to use these tools simply because I…

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Promoting Community Engagement: Reflections from Runner #13,165
By Kim Ammann Howard

Recently I ran, or to be more accurate, “sort of ran and mostly walked” the Bay to Breakers, the infamous 12K race in San Francisco. After navigating the course with my 11-year old daughter and more than 50,000 others, I found myself thinking about ways to engage diverse communities in social change efforts. While the race is clearly different from…

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Paging Dr. Oz…What Do Californians Need to Know About Health Care Reform?
By Lande Ajose

I’ve used this space in the past to take a critical look at philanthropic practice and what foundations can do better. Well, hold on to your hats…today I’m writing about something they’ve done well. A couple months ago, shortly after the shellacking President Obama took in the polls, I was watching television and came across a familiar face: Oprah’s B.F.F.…

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Equity … It’s for Everyone
By Ellen Irie

“Deliver on the promise of a quality education.” Thus proclaimed LeShawn Routé Chatmon, Executive Director of The National Equity Project (formerly BayCES), echoing the organization’s mandate at its inspirational re-naming event held on Friday, October 29 in downtown Oakland. Informing Change is proud to have been a supporter of this event; Informing Change Managing Director, Lande Ajose, currently serves on…

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Where is Organized Philanthropy?
By Lande Ajose

On October 17, the film Waiting for Superman opened in 27 cities. It has been hailed as the most significant documentary since Davis Guggenheim directed the Academy Award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The film is being credited with reinvigorating the national debate about the state of public education. As many efforts get underway and commitments to change are made,…

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Harnessing the Power of the Visual
By Kim Ammann Howard

Recently, I’ve been thinking about new tools that can help present information in a visually engaging way. More than ever before, we are able to easily and cheaply gather and share such information. This has generated vast amounts of visual content; on YouTube alone, 24 hours of videos are uploaded each minute. However, as we know, more of anything doesn’t…

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Moving from Information Inundation to Transformation
By Kim Ammann Howard

Everyday, information permeates most aspects of our lives. Rapid advances in technology and our resulting ability to collect and share information takes place at a scale that was hard to imagine, even ten years ago. For many of us, this information explosion results in a “love-hate” relationship that oscillates between invigorating and overwhelming depending on the moment. The Economist’s recent…

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The Greening of Organizational Capacity
By Ellen Irie

Capacity building has been a leading issue in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors for over a decade. This is a good thing. The increased focus has provided nonprofits with time and resources to attend to the underlying structures, competencies and processes that enable them to be more efficient and effective in their mission-related work. In the last several years, “greening”…

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Rethinking Diverse Foundation Leadership
By Lande Ajose

In liberal California, diverse philanthropic leadership may not appear to be much of a conversation. After all, a quick look at many of our leading foundations—James Irvine Foundation, The California Endowment, the California HealthCare Foundation—as well as some notable community foundations—California Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation and the East Bay Community Foundation—would suggest that the issue of diversifying leadership…

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Cultivating Breakthrough Change
By Kim Ammann Howard

Coaching, when done well, can result in breakthrough changes for leaders, their organizations and over time the individuals and communities that they serve. It has been used to enhance nonprofit leadership and organizational effectiveness in a variety of ways ranging from renewed commitment to nonprofit work due to better work-life balance, to stronger senior leadership teams and boards due to…

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Discovering Your Evaluation Capacity
By Jennifer Curry Villeneuve

Calls for more and better evidence of programmatic outcomes echo through the nonprofit and philanthropic world. These appeals get louder with the intersection of increased needs in the community during tight economic times and the pressures to accomplish more with fewer resources. When planned and implemented well, evaluation can address the important questions of how supports are used and their…

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Evaluation, Integration & Innovation
By Ellen Irie

Good evaluation depends on integration. Integration with what? Integration into the daily and ongoing work of organizations dedicated to addressing pressing social problems and bringing about social change. Evaluation is fundamentally about learning, and it involves much more than just collecting, analyzing and reporting on data. It is not just about accountability; nor is it just about proving assumptions. Yes,…

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Why Nonprofits Don’t Make Mistakes
By Lande Ajose

In the private sector, generally speaking, there is generous room for mistakes. In an R&D function, private companies can spend a lot of money trying and testing a problem, and failing, without the fear of having to make their learning known. Eventually they unearth the positive lessons, bury the negative lessons and move on. For nonprofits dependent on foundations for…

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