A May 22 Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact, presented by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program and hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, brought together 32 funders, evaluation professionals, and arts practitioners to learn about concrete approaches and measures funders use to understand the impact of arts and social change investments. We heard case studies are using from Crossroads Fund in Chicago about its Social Movements Development model, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation about its use of Developmental Evaluation, as well as from the Fledgling Fund and Porch Light Initiative, part of the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia.
At least within this group, evaluation is no longer viewed as a necessary evil, or worse, an empty exercise. Funders and practitioners alike shared examples of shifts in thinking about evaluation toward:
- Frameworks that identify shared goals and clarify how grantees’ work aligns with larger values and social movements
- Cross-sector indicators and tools that help stakeholders understand what difference is occurring as a result of their work
- Iterative learning that moves future efforts toward more effective practices and greater potential for impact
There was a general consensus that if funders were more deliberate in communicating with each other about common interests, intentions, and results, their collective impact could be better understood and perhaps expanded. The need to embrace experimentation and even failure was also broadly supported. Participants valued the in-depth exchange with peers this day afforded and recommended that Animating Democracy organize additional convenings to extend the learning around new cases. Read the rest of this entry »