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This background paper was written to inform discussions at IVAR’s 2017 Evaluation Roundtable, which focused on what good learning looks like in responsive grant-making. This theme reflects findings from a feedback survey following the September 2015 convening, which highlighted the challenges to traditional practices posed by the current environment, and a willingness to invest in learning as an integral part of the strategy and actions of grant makers.

 

The 2015 Roundtable Survey highlights the difficulties trusts and foundations face in finding time and appropriate methods for learning:

 

  • Only 18% agreed that they have effective mechanisms for disseminating learning across the organisations. Reasons included lack of time and space to reflect on evaluation findings, as well as the absence of systems or supporting cultures to capture and share knowledge.
  • 85% of survey respondents stated that getting good data and the right mix of data was a challenge.
  • 45% said that they are not content with the way their organisations currently make use of information.’ (IVAR 2015)

 

In this paper, we have used the idea of the ‘learning organisation’ as a starting point to explore drivers, methods and themes from across the literature to start to shed light on what good learning looks like in practice.

This is a case study of the Building Health Partnerships programme in Dudley, where the partnership created a common system for demonstrating and measuring social impact. 

 

The Building Health Partnerships Programme aims to improve health outcomes through supporting the development of effective partnerships between Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. Supported by NHS England this programme is delivered by Social Enterprise UK and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research.

This is a case study of the Building Health Partnerships programme in South Gloucestershire, where the partnership faced a complex challenge to bring together all initiatives and services to better meet the needs of the local population. 

 

The Building Health Partnerships Programme aims to improve health outcomes through supporting the development of effective partnerships between Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. Supported by NHS England this programme is delivered by Social Enterprise UK and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research.

This is a case study of the Building Health Partnerships programme in Nottingham, where the partnership decided to focus on strengthening the link between health and employment support. Despite the overall number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance falling in Nottingham, the total long-term unemployed claiming Employment Support Allowance remained high. 

 

The Building Health Partnerships Programme aims to improve health outcomes through supporting the development of effective partnerships between Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. Supported by NHS England this programme is delivered by Social Enterprise UK and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research.

If you are interested to know what has been written about sustainability over the last few years but don’t have the time. Read our rapid review of the literature. 

The key questions for this brief review were to:

 

 

(a) Take a small sample of relevant UK and international literature, in order to provide some context for the interviews and discussion for the research into sustainability

 

 

(b) Undertake a quick review of examples from IVAR’s own research where this has appeared (directly or indirectly)

 

 

(c) Undertake a review of a sample of trust and foundations websites/annual reports to identify if and how ‘sustainability’ is used/talked about

 

 

We decided in May to extend coverage to include some US sources from research and consultancy organisations engaged with foundations and the non-profit sector, and to examine reports of organisations that had decided to not survive.

Over the last 18 months we have been taking an in-depth look at how UK trusts and foundations approach funding in geographical areas. Out of this study we have developed and tested a framework that can be used to plan and implement place-based funding.

The framework summary is a way of organising a conversation when planning or reviewing place-based work. The purpose is not to identify ‘good’ or ‘bad’ practice but rather to provide a prompt for discussions, helping funders to consider key questions about place-based approaches and the degree to which there is alignment between the answers to the questions.
This paper, produced for the Evaluation Roundtable event on 27th April 2016, offers a practical resource for foundation staff in assessing and/or improving their processes for the design stage of commissioning external evaluations. It does not cover all aspects of the evaluation cycle but, drawing on insights from Roundtable discussions to date, it addresses concerns raised by a broad range – in terms of size, type, stage of development and approach to evaluation – of foundations.

In the UK, over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in demand for different types of evaluative activity. How this activity is defined has become increasingly amorphous. Experiences shared through the Roundtable show that attitudes to, and organisation of, evaluation are different in every foundation, and inextricably bound to broader cultural factors. Discussions about process alone will not answer critical questions about what it means to use evaluation effectively.


This broader question of what it means to be a learning organisation (covering questions about organisational culture, and the sharing and use of evaluative information) is the theme of the 2017 Roundtable.

Find out more about the Evaluation Roundtable

This report presents the first ever picture of evaluation within larger trusts and foundations in the UK. It is based on the findings of an online survey completed by 34 trusts and foundations.   The survey was designed to address a gap in knowledge identified at the inaugural UK Evaluation Roundtable in March 2014 to:  

  • Understand the range of evaluative activities that trusts and foundations are undertaking and how these activities are being organised and invested in
  • Explore perceptions about how well trusts and foundations are making use of evaluative information to inform their work
  • Explore the challenges that trusts and foundations are facing in relation to their evaluation practice
Turning a corner looks at:  
  • The current operating environment for voluntary organisations – the risk of paralysis, working with others, staying rooted.
  • What helps voluntary organisations to thrive – understanding mission and fit with the bigger picture, tailored support and flexible funding.
  • Funders and the voluntary organisations they support – strategic approaches and building relationships.

The report draws on a year of IVAR’s research to offer a detailed snapshot of – and our reflections on – life for senior staff and trustees in frontline social welfare voluntary organisations.   In February 2013, we assessed what we had learned from our year in the field by collectively analysing 25 research reports. In particular, we wanted to shed light on what our findings tell us about the current operating environment for voluntary organisations, including what helps them to survive or thrive, as well as the implications of this for charitable trusts and foundations.