Impact and Learning

Our Approach

The Foundation strives to make an impact by providing critical resources and support to our partners. While we cannot reach our goals through our actions alone, we hold ourselves accountable for acting strategically to produce the conditions that will lead to better educational and life outcomes for youth in California and Washington. In addition to working with our partners to understand the impact of individual grants, the Foundation has developed an approach to track the overall impact of investments and to engage in continuous learning.

Our approach reflects four principles that apply across our work:

We focus on systems. Since its inception in 1985, the Foundation has provided critical resources and strategic support to enable our partners to transform structures and practices to better serve youth. This continual focus on ‘systems’ – even when we fund individual programs or sites – is evident in most of our grantmaking.

Our work is collaborative and collective. Our financial and human resources are limited compared with the scope of the problems we address. We use these resources effectively by partnering within and across sectors to build consensus and to leverage our collective resources. In addition to grantmaking, we convene leaders across systems and sectors to find common ground, build networks and create spaces for leaders to learn from and innovate with one another, and use our voice and social capital to amplify our partners’ efforts.

We continually observe and adapt. The Foundation works collaboratively with partners to develop and adjust strategies over time through close monitoring of the overall systems, the political contexts, and our partners’ own capacities, strategies, and outcomes. This emergent approach enables the Foundation to adapt to ever-evolving shifts in the education system, monitor progress, and promote continuous learning within and outside of the organization.

Our committment is long-term. We recognize that this work requires long-term commitment. Each grantmaking area assumes a time horizon of several years, with periodic review to assess whether our strategic choices were right and if it is time to stay the course or revise and shift.

Our Model

With these principles in mind, we have developed a three-part model that allows us to capture learning, to track the impact of our investments over time, and to watch changes with the California and Washington education systems.

These three components work together to provide a holistic view of how Foundation investments are contributing to educating and developing the whole child. It enables us to track progress within each grantmaking area, adapt our grantmaking to shifts in the field, and spot trends across our different grantmaking areas to amplify impact.

Retrospective Reviews

Periodically, the impact team develops a comprehensive report that reviews grants and activities across the Foundation’s priorities for a common period of time. The insights emerging from the report inform and align our grantmaking to respond to changes in the field.

Grant Making at-a-Glance

For different investments and grantmaking areas (e.g., School Finance and Accountability; Creativity and Arts Education), we have compiled a set of qualitative and quantitative indicators that enables us to track progress and report regularly to the Board.

Statewide Snapshots

We collect and follow a tightly curated set of state and school district level data that reflects important measurements regarding students, educators, and schools. Watching this data enables us to see trends and changes over the long term with the goal of answering, “Is the quality of education improving for our children?”