Many organizations want to have a learning posture towards their work and mission, yet many don’t take the time to build their own capacity to become dynamic learning organizations.
- Does your organization or program have formal structures in place to consistently ask questions about your effectiveness?
- Do you gather the right data to measure the impact of your work and initiatives?
- Do you have systematic processes or periods for analyzing and discussing data and its meaning?
- Is there cyclical decision-making around resources, staffing, partnerships, and investments based on a formal learning cycle?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then most likely your organization could use some internal capacity building around becoming a robust learning organization.
True learning organizations cannot rely only on outside evaluators but must have learning woven into the fabric of the organization so that reflection and growth are institutionalized (Coffman & Beer, 2011). Also, to assess effectiveness, there are questions that an organization must consider beyond the specific outcomes of individual programs (Preskill & Mack, 2013). As Moss, Coffman, and Beer (2020) emphasize, learning and decision-making are often organizationally siloed, with responsibility for evaluation and strategic decision-making assigned to different teams. Our goal at HEI is to support our clients in building the internal structure and capacity to reflect on their goals and make decisions organization wide based on data.
At HEI, our team has developed the Insight Learning Framework, an approach for helping entities build the structure needed to become learning organizations. The Insight Learning Framework goes beyond evaluation to support organizations as they strategically increase their own capacity for using data for crucial decision-making. After all, without a learning culture where curiosity, flexibility, and a willingness to discuss failure are valued, even well-planned evaluations won’t have any long-term impact on organizational decision-making (Taylor & Liadsky, 2018).
The Insight Learning Framework includes five stages: (1) Develop Your Learning Agenda, (2) Create a System for Learning, (3) Implement Your Learning System, (4) Reflect on Lessons Learned, and (5) Take Action and Plan for the Future. At each stage in this framework, different tools might be appropriate depending on the organization. You can find more information on the Framework here.
Coffman, J. & Beer, T. (2001). Evaluation to support strategic learning: Principles and practices. Center for Evaluation Innovation.
Moss, I.D., Coffman, J., & Beer, T. (2002). Smart decision-making. Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Organizational Research Services (ORS). (2013). Getting more from measurement: Five insights for social innovators. Seattle, WA.
Preskill, K., & Mack, K.(2013). Building a strategic learning and evaluation system for your organization. FSG. Taylor, A. & Liadsky, B. (2018). Achieving greater impact by starting with learning: How grantmakers can enable learning relationships at the grant application stage. Taylor Newberry Consulting and Ontario Nonprofit Network.