The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) recently completed its sixth survey of Hewlett Foundation grantees, an effort that gathers data so we can evaluate our work and improve our grantmaking. The survey was completed by 707 grantees during September and October 2015, reflecting a 62% response rate among the foundation’s overall pool of active grantees. Throughout the report, ratings from Hewlett Foundation grantees are compared against our own past performance as well as ratings from more than 40,000 grantees of roughly 250 peer funders.
CEP recently shared the full report and presented the findings to all staff. I asked Hewlett Foundation Evaluation Officer Amy Arbreton about the findings.
These Grantee Perception Report (GPR) findings seem pretty consistent with our last survey, completed in 2013. Would you agree? What do you see as the major finding in these survey results?
Yes, there was very little change—which, given the relatively high ratings we received on many measures in 2013, we see as a good thing. Overall, Hewlett Foundation grantees continue to have very positive perceptions of the Foundation, but there are areas for improvement.
The Foundation has maintained or improved on many of the already positive ratings we received in 2013. There was notable movement around transparency, for example. On overall transparency, grantees rate the Foundation significantly higher than grantees rated us in 2013.
As in 2013, Hewlett Foundation grantees rate the Foundation’s impact on their organizations, and the helpfulness of its selection and reporting/evaluation processes similar to the typical funder. That’s been consistent for the last few years, but we actually ranked higher on measures of impact on past surveys—so those are areas where we can continue to look for ways to improve.
Q.One of the reasons we value the GPR is that it provides comparative data, because CEP also surveys the grantees of other large philanthropies. What does that additional context tell us?
Because CEP conducts the online survey, it ensures confidentiality to the grantees and an independent perspective for us on a wide range of areas that we care about. It’s also a comprehensive survey of our grantees, which means that CEP surveys all active grantees and not just selected ones.
Probably the most helpful part, though, is the comparative data that CEP provides. Grantees tend to give positive ratings to funders, so the comparative data give us a sense of how we are doing relative to our peers and our own past performance. When CEP reports the findings, we see ourselves compared with all the other foundations in the very large data set, we see ourselves compared with a set of other large foundations that have similar characteristics to our Foundation, and we also see ourselves now compared with past years.
Some of the key points highlighted in the 2015 GPR are that our staff’s understanding of grantees’ fields, advancement of knowledge, and effect on public policy continue to be areas of strength for us. But as I mentioned, we have seen higher ratings in past years on things like the helpfulness of selection and reporting/evaluation processes.
Q. That’s helpful context. Of course, our program staff have been looking at these data closely to see what we can do to improve our grantmaking. What would you highlight as areas that you expect the Foundation will be working on?
Across the Foundation, we take the findings seriously and look for ways to improve. Each program takes a look at their own results and makes plans to address those areas that are most relevant to their program goals. If you look at the Foundation as a whole, there are a few areas that we are paying close attention to—things that are relevant to every program.
Though our overall rating of transparency has increased, there is room to do more, particularly with respect to sharing what we have tried that has not worked.
Impact on grantee organizations is another area that we care a great deal about and one where programs will continue to pay careful attention. CEP results suggest that our general operating support grants and Organizational Effectiveness (OE) grants tend to have a bigger impact on grantee organizations, so I expect program staff will continue to consider that in thinking about the mix of grants we make.
Grantees’ open-ended comments suggest that Hewlett might want to consider greater inclusion of grantees and other relevant stakeholders in developing our grantmaking strategies—and to communicate more broadly and clearly about the opinions and input that inform our strategic choices. Programs will likely be working on building those kinds of opportunities for input and feedback more directly into our practice of strategy development and implementation.
The UNESCO Institute of Statistics, a grantee of our Global Development and Population Program, recently took the initiative to translate Program Officer Dana Schmidt's blog post about an evaluation of the citizen led assessments of learning we support. Thanks to Alejandra Masa López and Ana Aznar Castillo of Spain's Instituto Nacional de Evaluacíon Educativa (INEE) for their work on the translation.
Denise Smith Amos, writing for Jacksonville.com, on the decision by the Duval County Public Schools Board—the district is the sixth largest in Florida and the twenty-second largest in the United States—to adopt the EngageNY open educational resources (OER) curriculum for its elementary schools:
Instead of hardback textbooks, Duval’s elementary students will learn math and reading from sheets of paper and other materials downloaded from an online website.
A divided Duval School Board voted last week to adopt the free online program called EngageNY as its main curriculum for elementary reading and math next year, instead of buying new textbooks. The district expects to print out much of the materials.
It’s an unusual step for a major urban district, but it is becoming more common as districts across the country scramble to find good materials that align with tougher academic standards in the national Common Core and Florida’s similar college-ready guidelines.
By downloading materials instead of purchasing textbooks, Duval will save $10 million over two years, he said, while gaining greater assurance that students can meet Florida’s standards.
The Hewlett Foundation supported the development of the EngangeNY materials through a series of grants to the University of the State of New York Regents Research Fund.
Barry Hessenius of the Western States Arts Federation, writing at his blog:
Everywhere today there are articles and media accounts of how the arts play a role in creative aging for seniors, and how that role is helping people growing older to live more interesting, productive, satisfying and fulfilling lives, and how that - plus a range of other intersections between the arts and medical care - is helping elders (and younger people too) maintain better health, recover quicker from health problems, and from surgery and chronic illnesses, and in addressing mental issues from Alzheimer's and dementia to depression and anxiety.
A growing body of preliminary research is confirming what many in the arts sector long intuitively believed - that the engagement with the arts on multiple levels is simply good for the body, mind and soul - in very tangible, practical ways.
The Hewlett Foundation recently co-hosted, with Aroha Philanthropies, a meeting of leaders in the field called Artful Aging: The Transformative Power of Creativity, which Barry mentions in his post.
But, philanthropy, let’s remember, from the Greek, is “love of humanity.” Love is central to philanthropy, by definition. It should be central. That doesn’t mean we should be intellectually lazy in our philanthropy. To the contrary, we should be sharp and smart and full of passion. Strategy and passion are not in opposition to one another. They challenge, reinforce, and strengthen one another. The best argument for strategic philanthropy is perhaps an emotional one—that if we are smarter about how we give, we can help create a world where our children will not be hungry, their reading and math scores will improve and so too their life chances; where the homeless will be stably housed, living with dignity and able to meet their basic human needs; where hate crimes are eliminated and we no longer hear of black men’s lives taken for no reason, or young gay teens committing suicide because of relentless bullying; where art and music is plentiful and enriching; and where, around the globe, rivers and streams are clean and our planet is an altogether healthier place.
CNN profiles Marilyn Price, the founder of Trips for Kids, a grantee of our Environment Program as part of our work Serving Bay Area Communties:
During a 1982 mountain biking trip in northern California, Price reached a point on the trail where she could see all of San Francisco. Looking out at the city, she thought of the children she met while volunteering at a soup kitchen there. And it hit her: She wanted to give them the same experience.
"There's nothing like biking up a mountain and looking behind you to see all you've accomplished," she said.
Price has since helped more than 25,000 at-risk children from the San Francisco Bay Area get off urban streets and into nature through her nonprofit, Trips for Kids.
To celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, we're sharing the story of the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, a grantee of our Performing Arts Program. The plaza sits squarely in San Jose's Mayfair, a historically Latino neighborhood where Cesar Chavez grew up and where he led the first of the boycotts for farmworker rights that he organized in the 1960s.
When the plaza was built in 1999, its backers saw it mainly as a performance venue: a "Latino Lincoln Center." A decade later, the city of San Jose decided to make a change, and established the School of Arts and Culture at MHP in 2011 to provide new leadership for the plaza:
The new vision for the plaza focused on arts education—and in particular the traditional arts of Mexico and the Latino diaspora—as a means to help young people grow as individuals, to build important skills like creative problem-solving and collaboration, all while fostering cultural knowledge. “In this community, but I would say throughout most of American culture, we consume the arts—it’s entertainment,” said Lilia Agüero, the school’s director of education. “But here, you can learn to be a maker, and that instills, I think, a sense that you can do things.”
Today, the plaza's classrooms buzz with the sounds of people engaged in creating art—guitar lessons, baile folklórico, ceramics, and painting. Children learn what they are capable of while connecting with their heritage. And the community has a place where its children can be safe, and where it can celebrate art and culture—a refuge in the heart of the neighborhood.
Earlier this month, Fay Twerskey, director of our Effective Philanthropy Group, joined Jacob Harold of Guidestar and Cynthia Figueroa of Congreso de Latinos Unidos for a conversation about the Performance Imperative, an effort to develop a common definition of "high performance" for the nonprofit sector and describe the seven pillars that can help organizations achieve their greatest impact. A recording of the webinar is now available.
Wednesday morning, Hewlett Foundation Program Officer Marc Chun kicked off a day of Deeper Learning selfie—or #DLfie—sharing with the tweet above, and asked others to share what they were doing right now to contribute to deeper learning. Tweets came in from classroooms,
All of which goes to show the tremendous range of places that deeper learning is happening, and the many ways its helping prepare students for college, career, and life. We've pulled together a Storify of some of the best #DLfies, and hope you'll add yours to the mix.
At an event at MIT’s Stata Center, the home of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), with more than 200 students, academics, and industry representatives in attendance, MIT faculty and administrators unveiled three new cybersecurity initiatives, to be housed at CSAIL and the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Funded with a $15 million grant from the Hewlett Foundation, the MIT Cybersecurity Policy Initiative will pool the expertise of researchers at CSAIL, MIT Sloan, the MIT departments of political science and economics, and the Science, Technology, and Society program to better characterize the security dynamics of large networked systems, with the aim of guiding policymakers.
Cybersecurity@CSAIL will provide funding and coordination for the lab’s ongoing research into hardware- and software-based approaches to computer security, while MIT Sloan’s Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure in Cybersecurity, or (IC)3, will focus on the human element — how organizations can ensure that their employees or volunteers are not creating security vulnerabilities, whether intentionally or not.