SPR has specialized expertise working with foundations and funder collaboratives. Our philanthropic clients include The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Ford Foundation, The California Endowment, The Ms. Foundation, and Annie E. Casey Foundation (see full list of clients here). Major foundations across the nation have sought SPR’s expertise for a variety of reasons. As consultants, we have helped foundations design initiatives; develop theories of change, logic models, and indicators and measurements; design grantee database and reporting systems; and implement organizational changes to increase effectiveness around diversity, equity, and inclusion. As researchers, we have conducted numerous evaluations of foundation initiatives focused on capturing outcomes, challenges, and lessons learned.
Through our experience, we have gained a deep understanding of the unique context in which philanthropic planning and initiative implementation unfold. We have applied this knowledge in developing collaborative and flexible evaluation designs, providing timely feedback that promotes ongoing program improvement, conducting multi-level analyses, and writing actionable reports of practical value to foundation clients, their grantees, and the communities they serve.
Evaluation of The Blue Shield Foundation of California Strong Field Project
To increase knowledge about effective field-building strategies, SPR conducted a five-year, mixed-method evaluation of Blue Shield of California’s Strong Field Project (SFP). The SFP’s goal was to strengthen the domestic violence field in California by equipping a critical mass of diverse leaders and organizations with the capacity, tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to lead a stronger movement for ending domestic violence. The evaluation showed that the SFP achieved its desired impact by inspiring leaders and organizations to explore new ways of thinking, leading, and operating. We found that the SFP challenged long-held assumptions and entrenched patterns that had stalled the development of the domestic violence field. This evaluation can serve as a model for the evaluation of philanthropic field-building initiatives using a robust logic model, social network analysis, leadership assessments, and longitudinal tracking of individual, organizational, and network changes.
The Strong Field Project webpage
The Strong Field Project, Year 5 Legacy Report
Yu, Hanh Cao, Jennifer Henderson-Frakes, and Lucia Corral-Pena. “Building a Field: The Blue Shield Foundation of California’s Strong Field Project Leaves a Legacy and Valuable Lessons.” Foundation Review Volume 8, Issue 2 (June 2016).
SPR evaluates efforts to strengthen the leadership capacity of youth, nonprofit leaders, and movement activists.
- Evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Community Health Leaders Program. This evaluation employed an ethnographic design to conduct a Leadership Dialogue Circle and in-depth case studies of nine SF Bay Area Community Health Leader awardees. We sought to examine, compare, and contrast the influential forces and defining events that shaped the leadership pathways of the leaders and the longer-term impact of the award on their careers and personal lives.
SPR has led many evaluations of efforts to strengthen organizations’ effectiveness and resilience. In addition, we have developed robust organizational assessment tools to support our clients’ capacity-building plans and programs.
- Evaluation of The Community Leadership Project. The Community Leadership Project (CLP) was a $20 million partnership between the Packard, Irvine, and Hewlett Foundations that aimed to build the capacity of organizations serving low-income people and communities of color. In Phase 2 of CLP, SPR’s culturally responsive evaluation focused on strategies for ensuring long-term sustainability of community organizations through investments in resilient leadership, adaptive capacity, and stable financial systems.
- Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation Organizational Effectiveness (OE) Program. The Hewlett Foundation’s OE Program provides capacity-building support for grantees across its program areas. Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, the evaluation assessed the extent to which the OE program resulted in stronger, more resilient organizations with greater capacity to realize their missions and strategic goals. To ensure that OE resources are used effectively and efficiently by program staff members and grantee organizations, the evaluation also assessed the administration of the OE program. Final recommendations informed the structure and direction of the OE program going forward.
- Evaluation of the California Education Policy Fund (CEPF). Funded by The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, CEPF seeks to improve California’s education system and outcomes for underserved youth. The CEPF uses an “ecosystem approach,” making grants to organizations working in different niches of education policy reform—including finance reform, college readiness, data systems, standards, and effective teachers—and facilitating inter-grantee collaboration. The evaluation of CEPF will focus on intermediate components and outcomes of grantees’ policy change efforts, documenting changes in levels of inter-grantee collaboration and progress toward policy change goals. Both qualitative and quantitative methods will be used, including a grantee social networking survey and multiple rounds of interviews with grantees and other key stakeholders in California’s education policy landscape.
- Evaluation of the Organizational Health and Effectiveness of The ClimateWorks Foundation. Our three-year evaluation of the ClimateWorks Foundation documented baseline organizational health, traced how it evolved over time, and assessed how effectively ClimateWorks is performing its core functions in the climate change-mitigation field.
Representative projects include:
- Evaluation of The Blue Shield Foundation of California Strong Field Project.This five-year, mixed-method evaluation of the Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Strong Field Project (SFP), a large-scale field-building initiative, was critical in allowing the SFP to realize its goal of building a stronger field to end domestic violence in California and to serve as a model for field-building initiatives across the nation.
- Evaluation of NoVo Foundation’s Move to End Violence Against Women and Girls.The NoVo Foundation’s Move to End Violence initiative, launched in 2010 and intended to run for 10 years, seeks to strengthen the collective capacity of the movement to end violence against girls and women in the United States. The evaluation has the dual focus of capturing the multiple levels of outcomes while simultaneously drawing out the key lessons emerging from this innovative field-building project. The evaluation is designed to ensure that our efforts can both inform the evolution of the initiative and adapt to any change of direction it may take in the months and years ahead.
Our team has knowledge and experience evaluating place-based initiatives focused on achieving equitable outcomes for culturally diverse populations through a social determinant of health framework. Within this portfolio of work, we also have specialized expertise evaluating efforts to build healthy communities through changes in system-level structures and policies.
- Evaluation of Healthy Richmond. Healthy Richmond, one of 14 Building Healthy Communities sites supported by The California Endowment, is working over a 10-year period to improve health systems and the physical, social, economic, and service structures that support the healthy living and wellness of Richmond residents. Serving as the Learning and Evaluation Specialist for this initiative, SPR supports community-wide learning and documents HR’s progress toward meeting the goals identified by the Healthy Richmond Hub.
- Evaluation of the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative (SPARC). Formed in 2014, the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative (SPARC) is working to improve the health and wellness of 8,000 residents living near and along 1.5 miles of the San Pablo Avenue Corridor and the two surrounding neighborhoods in West Oakland. The evaluation of SPARC includes assessing the capacity building of key collaborative partners, conducting a community survey, and creating a dashboard that gathers together condition indicators and outcome data gathered from the residents and partners.
Our team has knowledge of education and healthcare systems and policy, with expertise in collective advocacy focused on achieving equitable outcomes for culturally diverse populations. Within this portfolio of work, we also have specialized expertise in place-based and policy change approaches to building healthy communities.
- Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s California Education Policy Fund. The California Education Policy Fund (CEPF) advanced a larger vision of new policies that improve California’s education system and outcomes for underserved youth. The evaluation assessed the extent to which the CEPF increased levels of inter-grantee collaboration and its grantees remained on track to effect policy change.
- Building the Capacity of State and Local Advocates Representing Communities of Color. The California Endowment commissioned SPR to recommend how it can better support advocates who work on behalf of communities of color. SPR scanned the literature and conducted interviews with 44 funders, researchers, capacity building providers, and state and local advocates. These interviews helped to unpack some of the key issues in building the capacity of advocates representing communities of color and allowed us to describe challenges, articulate lessons learned, and recommend promising models.
For more information, or to discuss potential projects, please contact: