So What?

Focusing on ‘Effectiveness’ Isn’t Always Effective

December 15, 2017  • Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program

The biweekly ‘So What?’ guide highlights advice, events, and tips — mostly from the advocacy and evaluation worlds, selected by the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program.

Who defines effectiveness?

We are fans of Vu Le, the smart and snarky nonprofit leader and truth-teller. This week his blog features an invitation to a nonprofit karaoke throwdown and an adorable hamster. Perhaps more importantly: he highlights how limited and faulty concepts of “effectiveness” contribute to reduced and misplaced funding and, well, reduced effectiveness. His arguments resonate with what many evaluators have said for years: social change is complex with often unpredictable interactions among actors and factors. Funders’ (and evaluators’) focus on assessing individual organizations’ effectiveness with easily captured outcomes can ignore other measures of success – and systematically bias funding against groups led by people of color. Vu praises this recent post from Kathleen Enright of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations acknowledging similar concerns. And we salute the likeminded funders and evaluators teaming up to define and promote Equitable Evaluation.

Healthy Policymaking

In the current political environment, where “alternative facts” bifurcate the country into alternative realities, the notion of collaboration in government may seem extinct, kaput, gone the way of the dinosaurs. But wait, say our good colleagues at the Aspen Institute’s Justice & Society program, collaboration ain’t dead yet. In this article, they describe their experience fostering interagency and cross-sector collaborations on state-level population health policy through their program TeamWork: Leadership for Healthy States. It’s a good read: not just for restoring our faith in the government’s ability to function, but also as a source of insights into the building blocks of effective policymaking.

Repeat: APEP is moving! So put this in your address books before you forget…

On December 18th, APEP global headquarters will reopen, along with the rest of the Aspen Institute’s Washington office, at 2300 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, Suite 700 in Washington’s soon-to-be-yet-more-fashionable West End. Our phone numbers and emails won’t change. Pro tip: the entrance to 2300 N Street is, inexplicably, at 24th and N.

So What?
Hey Evaluator – Is That Legal?
December 1, 2017 • Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program