The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has announced changes to its monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) work.
In 2017, the foundation commissioned ORS Impact to evaluate and re-examine its MEL principles and practice. The report based on that assessment, MEL Practice at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation: Evaluation in Support of Moving from Good to Great (40 pages, PDF), found that while 70 percent of staff believed "their program continuously learns and adapts quite or very faithfully," only 38 percent said "their program shares learning quite or very faithfully." Despite the time spent on collecting data, 81 percent of staff also found it at least "somewhat" challenging to incorporate that data into program decisions, while 91 percent said it was challenging for grantees to have sufficient capacity to produce high-quality monitoring and evaluation reports, 65 percent found it at least "somewhat" challenging to incorporate evaluation outcomes into program decisions, and 71 percent cited the lack of sufficient resources to support intentional learning. In addition, the report found that while 69 percent of staff said senior management was sufficiently engaged in "communicating to staff the use of evaluation and evaluative information," only 44 percent said it was sufficiently engaged in "modeling" it.
Based on the report and follow-up discussions with staff, the foundation has fine-tuned its MEL principles to elevate the role of grantees and the communities served by its programs. To that end, the foundation will streamline its internal processes and update its strategy and guidelines to ensure they are useful; work with staff to identify and close gaps in MEL competencies; explore the possibility of awarding grants to strengthen grantee MEL capacity; and contribute to cross-disciplinary MEL field-building efforts.
"Having a strong set of values, practices, policies, and support in collecting information about progress and reflecting on it to adapt is key to achieving our shared goals," wrote Meredith Blair Pearlman, director of evaluation and learning at the foundation, in a blog post. "With the changes above, we seek to strengthen our culture of reflection and learning, demonstrate our value for feedback and data, and acknowledge and support the time, skills, and effort needed for MEL work."