Learning for Better Results in Environmental Education

Purposeful improvement – informed by data – is an asset for any organization. Program leaders who measure progress toward defined outcomes gain insight into their approaches and information to enhance their decisions.

The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation seeks to build and scale organizations capable of continuing to achieve results after the Foundation’s sunset in 2020. As described in the Foundation’s Resiliency Guide, we believe organizational resiliency is shaped in part by the depth of an organization’s commitment to learning, improving, and adapting. The Foundation invests in evaluation as a means for organizations to increase their impact – and their sustainability.

In 2017, Learning for Action (LFA) released the Environmental Education Better Results Toolkit. Content is drawn from the experience of nearly 20 environmental education organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area who participated in the multi-year Leadership and Evaluation to Advance Program Success (LEAPS) Initiative. The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation funded both the LEAPS Initiative and this toolkit.

The toolkit features a practical three-phase process that can be applied by environmental education organizations seeking to achieve greater impact. Each phase includes examples and worksheets.

Phase 1: Create Your Theory of Change
Strengthen and document your program design, then identify what information you need to collect to know what is working and what could be improved.
Phase 2: Develop Your Measurement Plan
Design the tools and process for collecting data.
Phase 3: Engage in Continuous Improvement
Analyze and use data to make adjustments for better results.

While the toolkit is geared toward environmental education programs, the concepts, resources, and tips it contains can be applied to programs and organizations in virtually any issue area.

LFA chief executive officer Steven LaFrance published a companion essay, Environmental Education for Kids: Three Keys to Success. It describes the importance of ensuring that programs for young people are sufficiently intense, connected to the classroom, and grounded in positive youth development principles.