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Re-imagining Measurement in Philanthropy

Leaders can be of two minds when it comes to the topic of monitoring, evaluation, and learning in philanthropy today. There is tremendous excitement about the blossoming potential of new developments in data accessibility, methods, tools, and analytics. There’s also palpable confusion about the complexities of measuring social impact, and real frustration as individual evaluation “bright spots” in the field multiply but don’t necessarily sum to clear answers.

Recognizing this duality led the Monitor Institute by Deloitte to undertake a multi-faceted study focused on a central question: What can be done to help social sector actors turn data into an asset that benefits both philanthropic organizations and those they seek to help?

With support from a set of funders including the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Monitor launched the Re-imagining Measurement initiative in 2016. It featured conversations with 125 experts and practitioners, development of a “bright spots” catalog with 750 examples, research into current practices and trends in philanthropy, and study of relevant trends from adjacent fields.

Through this process, stakeholders identified three defining characteristics of a better future:

  • Purpose: More effectively putting decision-making at the center of monitoring, evaluation, and learning efforts
  • Perspective: Better empowering constituents and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in choice-making processes
  • Alignment with other actors: More productively learning at scale to match the size and complexity of today’s challenges

This body of work provides insight into practices worth spreading, and inspires experimentation with a range of actions for using data and information to advance the social sector.

Access a synthesis of the initiative’s findings and the full Re-imagining Measurement Report and Toolkit.

View other Foundation-supported evaluation resources.