The Last Mile: How Can Philanthropy Help Close the Evaluation Gap in Education?

July 2, 2010  • New Media Mill

Decision-focused M&E: a framework for strategic philanthropy

Purpose: To identify the most useful frameworks for M&E in the K-12 education arena, and to help philanthropists make use of these frameworks in education and other issue domains.


Both public and private sector grant-makers seeking social impact face the same challenge: to design measurement and evaluation methods that generate timely, useful information to inform their investment decisions and in some cases illuminate best practices.

Funders often haphazardly seek to gather and analyze as much data as possible and to analyze that data in search of evidence of impact. This uncoordinated approach can lead to drawn out, expensive evaluations and can place a heavy burden on the grantees that must gather data. Yet the profusion of data produced often fails to supply decision-makers with the information they need in the timeframe that it is most useful.

An M&E system is more likely to support effective decision making when funders design it in a way that identifies at the outset the key questions to be answered and produces a targeted data collection strategy to inform decisions that must be made.  This approach of decision-based evaluation will be the one explored by the Aspen Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation’s (PSI) Last Mile Workshops.

With a particular focus on teacher and principal effectiveness, the July 1 Workshop on Strategy and Metrics in k-12 education is the third in a series of such workshops designed to gain a snapshot of the state of the M&E debate in a number of issue domains and to export best practices across domains.