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Strengthening the Philanthropic Evaluation Field: The Walton Family Foundation’s Initial Exploration

In early 2021, as part of a larger organization-wide strategic planning process, the Walton Family Foundation Strategy, Learning and Evaluation Department undertook a team-based process of identifying areas of the larger philanthropic evaluation field that the foundation can (1) support; (2) learn from; and (3) provide some level of leadership to as it develops and strengthens over time.


Multiple topics were explored internally and then with 18 leaders from the philanthropic evaluation field (see the acknowledgements for a list), including both evaluators (within and outside of philanthropic organizations) and program staff who commission and utilize evaluations.

This report explores the results of the discussions with field leaders along with other insights from the field.

NEW: Making Causal Pathways Visible  Amid Complexity

Emerging from the field building work described above, in the fall of 2021, the Walton Family Foundation supported a series of discussions with leading methodologists and evaluators focused on a core premise:

Understanding the causal pathways in complex, dynamic settings can be an important learning input to the work of social change agents including those in and supported by philanthropy.

The participants identified a set of five experiments to strengthen the ability of social change agents (including philanthropy) to see more deeply into how change is happening and learn from it to inform their strategies.

Interested in learning more? The report provides a list of participants, more definition and context, and descriptions of the experiments. 


Interested in participating in this important work?  Please contact Matthew Carr at the Walton Family Foundation.

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