Learning in Responsive Grant-making: A look at the literature on learning organisations

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.


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