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Shifting Practices: F4ICA team presents to the American Evaluation Association

Dec 5, 2022 | 3mins

Photo credit: ELACC

In November we were invited to share the Fund’s approach to community-centered learning and evaluation with the American Evaluation Association at their annual conference in New Orleans

The conference, titled Reshaping Evaluation Together, had a specific emphasis this year on dismantling colonial ways of thinking that have shaped the sector. The field of learning and evaluation is moving in this direction, and as the Fund’s learning and evaluation practices were established to flip the traditional extractive role of evaluation, it was great to be able to share our experiences with learning and evaluation practitioners.

The Fund for an Inclusive California approaches evaluation as a tool for learning from community leaders and as an accountability tool to align our priorities and strategies with frontline communities and social justice movements. Maricela Piña, founder of Community Center Evaluation and Research, has been the Learning and Evaluation partner to the Fund for more than three years. She worked with the Fund’s community partners to design approaches to information gathering and sharing that center their priorities and align with the Fund’s values of community-led vision and design. 

Maricela and Jazmin presented their journey working together, focusing on relationship and trust building over time in order to ensure our measuring and learning focused on the Fund’s accountability to our community partners – rather than solely focusing on outcomes or impact. 

It is understood that this approach is at the leading edge for learning and evaluation as a field, a few highlights the team shared during the presentation:

1) It is critical to take steps to move the focus of accountability from grantees to funders, so that learning is iterative to make funders better and better partners, and increasing accountability to community partners. This model should be elevated.  

2) Who leads this work is important. Team composition, lived experience and expertise within the team are all important. The process and steps are important, and who you engage in this work is critical. 

3) Values alignment is essential. Having alignment between the client and the evaluation team is a must to be sure your orientation and approach are all coming from the same grounded, community-centered place. 

A reflection Maricela and Jazmin made during the session is that where the pooled fund is held is a critical factor, and speaks to the points above on “who leads the work” and “values alignment.” Common Counsel Foundation, where the Fund for an Inclusive California is held, has 35 years working with community-led organizations that are on the frontlines and supporting social justice movements. Common Counsel Foundation has built trust and meaningful relationships over time with movement partners, and is deeply rooted in its model of community-driven progress philanthropy.

Questions from the participants included curiosity about the process to engage funders and community partners in “sense-making sessions” that F4ICA holds to review and ensure that the data collected reflects the intentions of the people who provided input. This step ensures that evaluation doesn’t strip away important insights or create findings that are out of line with what participants shared, it provides a double check of the work. 

See the data dashboards with regional information and insights gleaned from our learning and evaluation process in the Regional Impact Briefs.