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.
Power and Money: Spreading it around
A couple of “So What” posts ago we urged readers to participate in the third Feedback Summit as well as the American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference, both conveniently located this year here in Washington, DC. Call it our collective attempt to reframe “the swamp” as a beautiful, productive wetland where ideas about evaluative thinking and shifting the balance of power can actually make this a better world.
Evolution, Revolution, and “System Re-Set” for the Feedback folk
Friend of APEP David Bonbright, one of the prime movers behind the Feedback Summit, blogged about one of his big take-away’s from this year’s gathering: the “choice” to make feedback about a deep questioning of the way institutions relate to those they purport to serve—whether customers, citizens, or “beneficiaries.” Participants tweeted out the hashtag #shiftthepower. As David observes, it ain’t easy; but something important and potentially revolutionary happens when we genuinely seek and respond to feedback. As this very positive overview of the Summit from Marc Gunther of Nonprofit Chronicles demonstrates, it might be more than merely evolutionary.
Shifting the balance of power: Evaluating a foundation’s effort to build local advocacy capacity in sub-Saharan Africa
Faithful readers of the items linked above will already know that the Feedback Summiteers include numerous foundations who are grappling in ways large and small with how to incorporate feedback loops into their grantees’ approaches. Marc Gunther cites the Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group and the 66 foundations now supporting the Fund for Shared Insight among leaders in that effort. APEP’s sessions and sidebar conversations at last week’s AEA conference included the first of what we hope will be annual updates on our evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s strategy to support local advocacy for family planning and reproductive health services in sub-Saharan Africa. Funder, grantee and evaluator discussed how the Foundation hopes to, yup, shift power from funder and grantee to the local advocacy groups doing the advocacy work at the country level. Central to that shift: effective feedback loops to encourage mutual accountability among the Foundation, its grantees, and those local advocates. It’s early days: stay tuned for more info as we can share it.