This March, Engage R+D will be two years old. As we reflect back on 2018, we find this past year to be a memorable and significant one for our young organization. This is an important time for all of us who work in the social sector, and we must challenge ourselves to consider how we can best advance transformative change for the social good.
We believe that by staying grounded in our values, and helping our clients reflect on the values that motivate them, we can all do our best work. Here are five ways we lived our values in 2018:
1. Harnessed the power of collective learning. We believe that learning - alongside our clients, partners, and the communities impacted by our work – is critical to our role as consultants. In 2018, we worked with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to host a grantee convening to enhance collective learning about the informal care field. We also partnered with the Foundation Center to advance learning within the field of philanthropy with Open for Good: Knowledge Sharing to Strengthen Grantmaking. And we continue to bring together funders and evaluators to think and work together to improve the practice of evaluation in philanthropy.
2. Used research as a tool to inform social change. As we embraced opportunities for collective learning, we also held firm on our commitment to using rigorous research, data, and evaluation techniques to help our clients advance their goals. In 2018, we released the PropelNext Alumni Study, providing evidence for the effectiveness of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s capacity-building initiative for youth-serving nonprofits. We were excited to share the findings of our two-year study of communities building health career pathways for diverse and under-represented youth with the California Endowment. We also shared a retrospective on the first three years of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s early learning systems change initiative, Starting Smart and Strong.
3. Advanced a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). At Engage R+D, we recognize that we can’t effectively help our clients address DEI issues unless we first tackle them head on ourselves, both individually and as an organization. In 2018, our team participated in a month-long equity challenge, engaging in daily personal reflections about DEI topics. We also held a series of retreats focused on our approach to DEI as a new organization, as we simultaneously supported our clients in their efforts to advance DEI in their own work. For example, we continued our work as the local learning and evaluation partner for Southern California Grantmakers Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Initiative in Los Angeles.
4. Catalyzed collaboration opportunities. The organizations we work with are increasingly focused on using multi-sector collaborations and networks as strategies to address some of our most pressing social challenges. At the American Evaluation Association conference in September, we brought together the James Irvine Foundation and the California Endowment to reflect together on their rapid response grantmaking. We also supported Ending Pandemics in their efforts to build a cross-sector and cross-border disease surveillance and response network across eight South Asian countries, and released a guide for nonprofits and funders interested in using network mapping for evaluation and learning.
5. Grew our team of experienced and committed professionals. We welcomed six new staff members to the Engage R+D team in 2018, expanding our footprint as an organization committed to helping funders and nonprofits harness the power of evaluation, learning, and strategy to advance their missions. In the midst of this growth, our team stayed unified and inspired by some of our shared values: a firm belief in the ability of evaluation and learning to fuel social change, a sense of cultural humility, and a commitment to advancing the work of our clients as well as the broader field.
In 2019, we look forward to continuing to work with an exceptional group of colleagues and partners. During these complex times, we appreciate the work that our clients, partners, and others working in the social sector are doing to advance transformative change. We wish you all the best in this new year and hope it offers you the chance to discover and affirm what you value most.