A couple months ago we published a blog post by our president, Larry Kramer, announcing a new policy on open licensing of the materials grantees create with our funds. Reaction to it—and this has been true of pretty much everything we’ve done related to openness and transparency over the past year—was reassuringly positive. Leaders in the field of open licensing praised us in comments. Colleagues buttonholed us at conferences, wanting to know more. People said nice things about us on Twitter.
Good enough—almost—to compensate for the months of meetings, draft statements, requirements memos, rethinking, informal conversations, timeline discussions, cajoling, and just plain old work that went into it.
That’s not a complaint, mind you, more an explanation of what “transparency” has meant for the Hewlett Foundation and our staff, and what it is likely to continue meaning: an idea for a new way to share what we know, followed by careful deliberation, consensus-building, planning, and changes to our internal systems before we ever get to an announcement of a new policy, let alone the actual, you know, being transparent.
It doesn’t make for the stuff of thrilling blog posts, and people aren’t likely to sing our praises on the Internet, but we continue to make progress on a number of projects related to transparency. Consider this an update.
We’ve made changes to our grants management software and contracting system to allow us to track evaluations of our strategies more easily, and to gather the “work products” that grantees produce with our funds. We’ve revised our proposal and reporting templates to explain the changes we’re making (and the new requirements we’re introducing around open licensing) to our grantees. We’ve gathered evaluations completed over the past few years, and are reviewing those to make sure there’s no confidential information in them that would preclude sharing them publicly. And we’ve made improvements to our online grants database to make it easier to search for grants associated with a particular program or initiative.
We’ve also completed the analysis of our website I wrote about earlier this year. We’re planning on a full redesign of the site in 2015, and to be honest, you won’t see a lot of the work I’ve just described above until that new site is live.
The will to be more open is there, and much of the work to get ready internally for more sharing is done. But without a web platform built for transparency—one that helps make clear the connections between programs and strategies, between staff members and grants and work products and evaluations—we can’t yet say we’re as open as we’d like, or intend, to be. We’re still in the middle, though definitely not stuck.
In case you missed it, that last paragraph was meant to mark the first anniversary of this blog, which launched on November 19, 2013 with a post by Larry Kramer called Learning, Transparency, and Blogs. Over the past year, we’ve published almost 240 posts from more than two dozen contributors, representing many thousands of words and more good ideas than I can count. We’re grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to read what we’ve written, and especially to those of you who’ve shared or commented on it.
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to use the blog to let you know what we’re thinking about, and provide a way for you to engage with our ideas. We hope you’ll stay with us—let us know when a post sparks questions for you, challenge us when we need challenging. With your help, we’ll do our best to make sure this “Work in Progress” continues to be what Larry hoped it would in that first post: “a lively forum from which everyone can learn.”
Really nice profile of Hewlett Foundation grantee The Texas Tribune on the occasion of its fifth anniversary. Justin Ellis at Nieman Journalism Lab on the innovative business model they're using to fund cutting edge public-interest journalism and the challenges that still lie ahead:
The Tribune was created to be different from the start. Combine the instincts of a reporter with the guile of a door-to-door salesman and throw in an appetite for experimentation — today, on the site’s fifth anniversary, it looks like those instincts have paid off. The staff has collected plenty of accolades for its journalism, having been recognized with the Sidney Hillman Award, Edward R. Murrow Award, IRE Award, and others. It’s averaging nearly 3 million pageviews a month. It’s on or atop any list of America’s most successful nonprofit news outlets. The reporting staff and coverage only continues to grow; it’s hiring a Washington correspondent, paid for through a $350,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Grants like that are part of why the Tribune’s business is on sound footing. In five years, the Tribune has raised nearly $27 million to support its work. While the business of journalism today offers less stability than ever before, the Tribune has been able to build a measure of security through a mix of philanthropy, donations, and sponsorships. But success brings spectators, and the Tribune’s business model has many trying to clone it and others continuing to question it.
“The reality is we’re a going concern,” says Evan Smith, the Tribune’s CEO and editor-in-chief. “We’re past the point of being able to get away with not being able to execute at the highest levels because we’re a startup.”
Which is why, five years in, with the ledger looking good and the journalism running strong, the big question for the Tribune is: How do they find more readers?
Education Program Officer Marc Chun explains the concept of "transfer" in education—taking "what was learned in one situation and apply it to new situations"—with an extended (but not belabored) analogy at The Huffington Post:
The authors of the National Research Council publication Education for Life and Work made the case that the ultimate goal of education is the ability to take what was learned in one situation and apply it to new situations. This is called "transfer," which stems from what they called "deeper learning"--mastering content through critical thinking and problem solving, communicating effectively, collaborative problem solving, learning how to learn, and maintaining an "academic mindset" (or the belief in yourself as a learner).
We know that this transfer happens somehow; I then wonder what schools can do to promote and measure it. To illustrate, if you'll allow me to drop a whole load of meta on you right now, I'm going to try to solve this problem by applying what I've learned from my doctoral trainingyears of research obsession with Hollywood secret agents.
Education in India is a paradox. India’s scientists and engineers are dominant in global technology, medicine and other fields. Yet 40 percent of its third graders can’t read words. “The Indian education system has always been good at the top of the distribution — which is where the elites are drawn from,” [Karthik] Muralidharan ["an associate professor of economics at the University of California at San Diego, who has studied primary education in India extensively"] said. “The design of education systems in developing countries has historically focused on screening for high-performing students as opposed to adding value to all students.”
That is changing in India — Pratham is a big reason why — but slowly. “Now in India you don’t need to explain to everyone that kids need to go to school,” Banerji said. “But that children need to learn and understand — that has another 10 years to go.”
As a bonus, the piece features a photograph from Hewlett Foundation Program Officer Dana Schmidt, who produced a photo essay about ASER and similar assessments in Africa for our blog earlier this year.
Earlier today, we published our 2013 Annual Report. As in prior years, this report contains the budget memos each of our programs prepares annually for our Board, as well as additional information about the Foundation's finances, personnel, and grantmaking. This year's report also links to a letter from Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer describing an analysis we recently undertook of trends in our grantmaking over the past decade.
San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (Photo Credit: Rennet Stowe)
Rod Torrez, Executive Director of HECHO (a grantee of our Environment Program), celebrates President Obama's recent declaration of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and Latinos' role in supporting it:
The San Gabriel Mountains in particular have always been a welcome reprieve from the city for Latinos, especially for hunting and fishing, and have been increasingly valuable as a destination for outdoor education programs, with private organizations and public agencies using the area to connect many Latino urban youth to the outdoors. Moreover, the San Gabriel Mountains watershed provides a significant portion of the region's clean water supply; protecting the health of the resource is paramount to the health of communities downstream.
There are many good reasons to celebrate the new national monument. But it is important to note that the San Gabriel Mountains, along with the Rio Grande del Norte, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments represent a new approach by protecting the land we love and respecting how we have enjoyed the land for generations. It's encouraging to know that we can continue to enjoy these places for generations to come. It's also satisfying to know that Latinos have played a significant role in protecting them.
Americans for the Arts, a grantee of our Performing Arts Program, recently announced that California is among ten states joining a three-year pilot program to strengthen arts education by advancing state policy:
Americans for the Arts will support each state team with customized coaching and technical assistance throughout the three-year pilot, via web-based tools and site visits. Additionally, teams will receive a direct grant of $10,000 each year of the three-year pilot program to support identified goals.
Through the three-year engagement, each state team will work toward specific objectives, resources and outcomes that they seek to impact. With issues ranging from teacher effectiveness to high school graduation requirements to Title I funding to equitable implementation of state policies—the ten states are tackling complicated education policy topics. Participating states vary greatly in size, political landscape, geography, population size, demographics, and arts education conditions.
The initial team implementing the pilot in California includes two Hewlett Foundation grantees: the California Alliance for Arts Education, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA), as well as the California Department of Education (CDE).
Nice piece from Alexandria Neason, writing at the Hechinger Report, about the new American Institute of Research study of deeper learning schools:
The report, supported by the Hewlett Foundation, found that “deeper learning” schools graduate high schoolers on time at rates 9 percent higher than other schools, a win for teachers and students alike. The study paired 13 “deeper learning” schools, all members of Hewlett’s Deeper Learning Network, with other schools that have comparable student demographics (including underserved student populations) and incoming achievement levels. Graduates of the “deeper learning” schools were over 4 percent more likely to enroll in four-year colleges, and they were slightly more likely to attend selective schools.
Can human-centered design help African teens avoid unplanned pregnancies? Our latest story combines photographs, video, text, and Program Officer Margot Fahnestock's audio to describe an innovative partnership between two grantees—the nonprofit reproductive healthcare provider Marie Stopes International and IDEO.org, a pioneer in human-centered design—working together to help teenagers in Zambia access reproductive health services.