President’s Update: Fall 2019

The Foundation’s commitment to learning and sharing knowledge

As the Foundation prepares to sunset in 2020, we seek to be intentional about what we leave behind. This desire is grounded in our commitment to learning, improving, and sharing our experience with others pursuing enduring answers to issues that matter to the future of California and the nation.

The challenges we face in education and environment, the Foundation’s primary program areas, are complex. Reaching meaningful and sustainable solutions in either system requires contributions from multiple actors, and this reality encourages us all to learn from and with one another. The Foundation invests in research, evaluation, convenings, and other efforts to better understand the impact of our work on the fields and core grantee organizations that we support, and to generate insights that can benefit practitioners, policymakers, and funders. Similarly, we continue to gather knowledge on how grantmakers can consider and strengthen their approaches to exiting bodies of work in ways that enable lasting impact and healthy grantee partners.

In this spirit, we have published an array of new knowledge products via our website this year:

  • Math in Common® reflections – an essay from Foundation staff drawn from learning in the first five years of a major initiative designed to advance California school districts’ adoption of instructional practices aligned to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. This is the first of several knowledge products in development by program officers involved in multi-year initiatives.
  • Evaluation reports – collections of findings from multiple Foundation-commissioned evaluations. These reports have always been publicly available on our partners’ websites and we have added them to our website to expand access to these important knowledge resources.
  • Resiliency resources – a research brief in process and two case studies that help nonprofits and their funders understand the capacities organizations need to weather internal and external disruptions. An updated version of our Resiliency Guide, informed by this learning underway, will be available in 2020.
  • Working with Consultants – a collection of resources to help funders and nonprofits successfully engage consultants in a range of high-need specialties such as strategic planning, evaluation, communications, and fundraising.
  • Keeping What Counts – an essay examining what foundations leave behind when they close, and the benefits and challenges associated with establishing various types of archives.
  • Sooner Rather Than Later: Prologue and Chapter One – the first two installments in a series of forthcoming narratives chronicling the Foundation’s concluding years, 2009 to 2020. The prologue summarizes the evolution and work of the Foundation across its first five decades, culminating with the decision to spend down. Chapter one describes the activation of the spend down between 2009 and 2013 and its implications for Foundation practices and operations.

Foundation staff are also planning with partner organizations to ensure that relevant knowledge and resources remain readily accessible after the Foundation closes its doors in 2020. The set of partners is wide ranging, and includes the California State University, WestEd, the Water Foundation, and the National Center for Family Philanthropy. These parties are hosting Foundation-generated materials pertinent to their respective audiences well into the future. In addition, the Foundation is committed to preserving many of its knowledge products in IssueLab, an open repository for social sector knowledge. 

As the Foundation moves through its spend down in the months ahead, we look forward to continuing to learn, share relevant products and resources related to our program priorities and approaches, and engage in continued dialogue with our audiences. We remain actively committed to doing all we can to leave behind strong fields, organizations, and individuals who are leading California and the nation into a productive, vibrant, and sustainable future.