Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation invites curiosity about what it takes to realize the ideals of our mission and values. We bring an equity lens to all evaluative thinking. We seek and hold a line of sight from data to insights to actions, with the intent to advance equitable processes and outcomes in and for communities in which the foundation invests. Our work includes evaluation, strategic learning in partnership with grantmakers, and equity-focused organizational learning. Our approach speaks to a dual focus on learning and accountability to the partners and communities we seek to serve.
Established in 2015, Kresge’s strategic learning, research and evaluation practice was charged with growing our “knowledge endowment” – to codify what we are learning about our funding by drawing on the full suite of philanthropic tools, including evaluation and thought leadership – to advance urban opportunity and to enliven our values. We have an enduring commitment to transparency and to orienting our efforts toward greater ownership among our nonprofit partners and communities.
Each of our funding strategies is guided by a racial equity lens and complemented with a theory of change and strategic learning questions. Our learning and evaluation team works in partnership with our programmatic staff to advance the goals of our grantmaking and social investment strategies.
We match our evaluative approaches with the goals of our grantmaking strategies. We often need to learn – and unlearn – in real-time so that we can act with the urgency that our strategies demand. Our approach is rigorous – we seek to understand deeply the context in which work is happening – and bring a mixed-methods approach. Our efforts include developmental, formative and summative evaluation.
We believe in the power of convening and communities of practice to connect learning with action. Within Kresge, this includes developing and facilitating staff and team retreats, hosting regular departmental forums and stewarding organization-wide equity change efforts. With our nonprofit partners and philanthropic peers, we join in communities of practice and partner on the design and delivery of learning meetings and events. We invite experts in equal measure among all participants, because we know that insights and innovation come in many forms and from many voices.
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The article highlights findings from a recent evaluation of Kresge’s cross-team grantmaking –co-authored by Senior Fellow Chris Kabel and Strategic Learning and Evaluation Officer Anna Cruz from The Kresge Foundation in partnership with AnnJanette Rosga, Theresa Esparrago Lieu and Natalie Blackmur of Informing Change, a strategic learning firm that conducted an evaluation of Kresge’s cross-team grantmaking. The article discusses the findings of the evaluation, which demonstrate how Kresge works with great intentionality at the intersection of its seven grantmaking areas, awarding so-called “cross-team grants.” These grants involve financial and intellectual contributions from multiple Kresge programs in order to foster multidisciplinary work among grantees. While grantees appreciate this approach, the foundation’s cross-team grantmaking is often challenged by the need to show short-term impact when in reality the multidisciplinary grants are tackling complex systems change, whose outcomes are not easily and quickly measured. Philanthropy itself may need to rethink how it works internally to support cross-sector systems change over the long-term.
Kresge’s Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation Director Anna Cruz published a blog with the Center for Effective Philanthropy about advancing racial equity in philanthropy. The piece highlights the importance of personal transformation and leading from where you are to bring equity into every aspect of foundation work.
Reid published an article with Jara Dean-Coffey in the Stanford Social Innovation Review about discovering and running with your learning edge – the place where we are stretched out of our comfort zones and where true transformation happens – to advance racial equity. Check out the four practices for pushing diversity, equity and inclusion conversations out of the comfort zone.
Kresge’s former Director of Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation Chera Reid co-authored an article in Foundation Review about principle-based strategic learning. The piece offers three principles for strategic learning based on insights from across three foundations. The meaning and importance of each principle are explored, alongside real-world examples of how the principles play out. Sensitivity to the unique culture and context of each organization is also explored.
All Learning & Evaluation Resources