Learning and Impact Highlights
Reflections on the Ford Foundation’s tech fellows program, and a set of key principles for others interested in using this model.
In 2010, the Ford Foundation became increasingly concerned that too many people—especially historically marginalized communities—were not able to access or benefit from the internet and digital communications technologies.
Based on feedback from our grantees, we have begun a number of initiatives to help improve our impact as grant makers, improve our responsiveness, and share what we're learning.
Our new report, Changing Grant Making to Change the World, offers a set of early lessons from our BUILD program, to help other grant makers who are interested in changing entrenched systems and supporting nonprofit sustainability.
A developmental evaluation will explore the difference our BUILD initiative is making—and how.
We’re grateful to our grantees who took the time and care to respond to our most recent grantee survey with the Center for Effective Philanthropy. They gave us the kind of candid, substantive feedback we rely on to understand where we’re doing well and how we’re falling short—and what we can do to improve.
We are always working to improve our grant making process, and to make sure our systems are efficient, easy to use, and accessible to everyone.
What we are learning
Inequality is a complicated problem, one that is deeply embedded in society. It is reinforced by policies and practices, as well as through beliefs and values—structurally and systemically. The roots of inequality go back generations, if not centuries.
Disrupting structural inequality takes time, and a variety of approaches and interventions: Think of the hard-won, yet incomplete, achievements of the civil rights, women’s, LGBT, and anti-apartheid movements. No one intervention or organization—or any one funder—is likely to cause a shift on its own.
All of this means that assessing the impact of our work is complicated, and requires a nuanced understanding of what it takes to make a difference. And it is why the Ford Foundation established an Office of Strategy and Learning—which is committed to ensuring that our efforts to disrupt inequality are impactful, as a result of assessment and applying what we learn along the way.
Why we learn
Learning helps us advance our mission. Through learning, we can:
- Better understand how complex social change happens, and the role we can play in supporting it
- Design and implement more effective program strategies
- Challenge our assumptions by engaging with a range of perspectives
The foundation supports independent researchers in their explorations of important social justice issues and the philanthropic field. Explore a selection of that research and analysis here.
The Ford Foundation commissioned an evaluation study from NIRAS to assess how well our BUILD program is achieving its goals. This report summarizes the initial findings of this evaluation, which began in February 2018 and will continue into 2021.