Giving Compass' Take:

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation sponsored Labs for Learning, an initiative engaging foundation leaders in dynamic learning to improve philanthropic practices.

How are you working to improve your own charitable practices? What valuable lessons have you learned about philanthropy along the way?

Learn more about improving a foundation's work through strategic learning.

Philanthropy lately has been paying a lot of attention to “learning.” Grantmakers for Effective Organizations holds a biennial conference devoted solely to this topic and recently put out a new guidebook on learning. Two full issues of The Foundation Review were released in 2019 on this topic — one on foundation learning and the other on collaborative learning.

To be sure, sector buzz on learning is not new. Foundations have long focused on improving their strategic learning so that grantmaking decisions are informed and data-driven.

This interest in improving strategic learning in philanthropy remains strong as foundations, for the most part, still have not cracked the code on mastering it. But their interest in learning is now about more than just improving their own strategic decisions.

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we have been researching and experimenting with how to weave learning into the fabric of philanthropy. We have done this in collaboration with a set of evaluation and learning leaders in foundations. These leaders are the individuals in their organizations who typically are charged with ensuring learning happens. Wanting to test our collective ideas in real-life settings, we locked arms and embarked on a journey that we aptly named the “Lab for Learning.”

Our experiences working directly with Lab participants, along with our many other accumulated engagements with foundations over the last two decades, has revealed three “ground truths” about what it takes to support dynamic learning in philanthropy:

  1. Learning requires a transformation in how foundations work, not just what they know.
  2. Organizational systems acutely affect our ability to learn.
  3. Learning habits are best introduced into regular work routines, often implicitly.
  4. We need to focus on equitable learning.

Read the full article about dynamic learning in philanthropy from Center for Evaluation Innovation at Medium.