The focus of the Foundation’s grantmaking and change making work is to create the conditions in neighborhoods and schools where children are safe, healthy, well-educated and prepared for success. This ambitious goal demands a continuous learning approach to the complex work of long-term community change. The Skillman Foundation views evaluation as an important component of the learning and innovation process. This approach is guided by a set of principles or values about the role of evaluation, namely that it should be:
- integrated in the work (not a stand-alone activity)
- embedded in the Foundation’s systems and structure (board, management team, staff)
- an ongoing, collective responsibility (not a discrete, outsourced function)
- participatory and collaborative (increasing stakeholder commitment and utilization of results)
- flexible and dynamic (responsive to the realities of implementation)
- culturally and technically competent
- operating within an organizational culture that values transparency, critical inquiry and learning
From 2007-2010, working with Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University, evaluation focused on providing timely information to Foundation staff and partners to guide and shape program design. Evaluation was guided by the Readiness Phase Evaluation framework, a framing document that was iterated over an 18-month process with staff and partners. In 2010, the evaluation focus shifted to assessing the status of the readiness phase outcomes. A cadre of national evaluators was engaged to evaluate or review the work of the last several years, focusing on the five components of the work as articulated in the theory of change: Systems of Supports and Opportunities, Neighborhood Capacities, Neighborhood Schools and Education Reform, Systems and Policy Change, and the Foundation as a Results-Oriented Learning Organization.
2016 Task Force
Recognizing that achieving ambitious goals would require alignment and commitment from all stakeholders, a 2016 Task Force of 65 key partners, residents and youth was created. The knowledge management and results-oriented vision of the 2016 Task Force is to advance a culture of learning, open innovation and improved outcomes for the Good Neighborhoods and Good Schools initiatives, and the stakeholders the Foundation ultimately serves. The general purpose of the 2016 Task Force is to “guide, monitor and advance” the 2016 goals. The group meets quarterly to review progress and work toward integrating and aligning work to ensure maximum impact.
Neighborhood Level Indicators
In addition to information from evaluation, current demographic, social and economic data at the neighborhood level is critical to informing implementation and assessing progress. Data Driven Detroit, a partner organization in the Urban Institute’s National Neighborhoods Indicator Project, is the source of much of the information.