Research & Evaluation

Research & Evaluation

Can Foundations Radically Transform How They Learn?

Research & Evaluation

In partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation and with funding from Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, Andrew Taylor and Ben Liadsky have been exploring themes and issues related to organizational and cross-organizational learning, evaluation, and strategy. Below is an excerpt from our first blog post related to this work.

In the face of COVID-19 and the systemic racism highlighted by the police murder of George Floyd, philanthropy is looking for ways to help nonprofits respond effectively to a complex and ever-changing context.

For many nonprofits, long-planned strategies and projects have gone by the wayside. Priorities have shifted, new needs have emerged, and old assumptions no longer hold true. Foundations and nonprofits, and even the consultants who support them, are wondering where they should stay the course and where they need to radically transform their work in both how they distribute resources and how they share power.

Foundations and nonprofits need to learn as fast as they can how to pivot.

Famously process-heavy and slow, foundations on the whole appear to be experimenting more, adapting and moving faster, and giving nonprofits more leeway to adjust their spending and strategies than they ever have.

Many foundations have revamped onerous bureaucratic processes into rapid-response grantmaking with few application and reporting requirements. Others have loosened spending restrictions on existing grants, offering the flexibility needed to weather the economic crisis. Internal deliberation and multi-layered approval processes have been dramatically shortened or bypassed altogether (e.g., see how Canadian philanthropy is responding).

At the same time, notoriously accountable to no one, philanthropy is experiencing external pressure from the broader social sector at levels it has not previously experienced. Many are calling for higher annual payout rates in Canada (where it is 3.5% of total assets per year) and in the US (where it is 5%). During the pandemic, and in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, foundations are being called to account for their values and to ensure practices are aligned with them.

Read the full blog post on the Center for Evaluation Innovation’s website.

Nonprofits and Nuclear Reactors: A Father-Son Conversation about Learning

Research & Evaluation

I chose a very different career path from my Dad, Bob.  He  is an engineer who spent his career in the nuclear power industry.  He worked for a while at the United Nations in Vienna, travelling around the world evaluating the practices at nuclear power plants.   After reading a paper I co-wrote last fall, my dad mentioned to me that he thought there was a lot of overlap between his work at the UN  and what I did as an evaluator in the non-profit sector -and I think he is right.  As different as our professional interests are, his wisdom about changing the way people relate to evidence translates really well to my work. In honour of my Dad and all dads on Father’s Day, here is a lightly edited version of the conversation we had over email. Read More

How is TNC being Called to Respond in the “New Normal?”

Facilitation and Training, Program & Systems Design, Research & Evaluation


Today marks the beginning of TNC’s 10th anniversary year.   This is the first of a series of posts reflecting on our practice and our mission.  

At TNC, we choose partners carefully.  Whether you are a grantmaker, a frontline service provider, a local government department, a national network or a capacity builder, we work with you because you are on the front lines of our collective efforts to create a better world.  You amaze us, you teach us, and you impress us.    Read More