Theory of Change: Progress and Lessons

Fund for Shared Insight: Theory of Change Progress and Lessons

Fund for Shared Insight launched with an initial “theory of change” for how collective funding to support feedback practice, feedback research, and foundation sharing could ultimately improve philanthropy. More than 18 months have passed since the launch of Shared Insight. This memo provides an early assessment of Fund for Shared Insight’s progress, based on data to date, and identifies opportunities for refined thinking about the theory of change.

Key findings

  • Shared Insight’s work on feedback practice is on track to date. While it is early to see changes in the desired outcomes, there seems to be forward momentum particularly related to nonprofit practice of feedback loops and related discourse. The addition of Listen for Good helps expand the scope and scale of efforts in this area of work. Progress related to funder engagement around feedback practice may be less on track overall; although there is explicit funder engagement in Listen for Good, it remains to be seen how engaged funders will be.
  • Shared Insight’s work with its feedback research grantees is also on track to date. With the addition of the Innovations for Poverty Action grant, the two areas of research in the theory of change are now being covered. Given the timeline of the projects, it will be awhile before we know what findings result from the research.
  • In the area of increasing foundation openness, Shared Insight is slightly off track. While individual grantees seem to be meeting expectations, it does not appear there have been synergistic effects as hoped. Unlike other focus areas, Shared Insight has not augmented its approach since the first year grants to address early gaps or new opportunities. However, Shared Insight released a new open RFP in March 2016 to address this gap.
  • Overall, Shared Insight has taken an emergent approach to its grantmaking, acknowledging from the beginning that, unlike an approach that begins with a strong set of hypotheses about change, there is much to learn about how to improve philanthropy so that foundations better listen and share to support greater impact. This work to date is laying the foundation for long-term changes that potentially will occur outside the life of Shared Insight itself and progress should be assessed with this timeframe in mind.

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