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Developmental evaluation of Ford's BUILD program: Initial findings

The Challenge

A five-year initiative, BUILD (Building Institutions and Networks) debuted in 2015 as a powerful tool both to guide Ford’s grant-making and to strengthen the social justice infrastructure of institutions and networks around the world. BUILD’s theory of change envisions a logical progression that hinges on the idea that improved capacities will lead, ultimately, to a greater and more lasting impact on fighting inequality. How and where has BUILD been implemented thus far and does such implementation bear out its theory? How does BUILD strengthen its grantees and how does it advance social justice?

What’s in the Report

An in-depth investigation of BUILD’s success thus far, the report--a developmental evaluation-- represents the first of three phases of the program’s overall evaluation. It establishes the philosophy behind BUILD as well as its scope, and takes pains to point out that any of its findings are more correctly to be viewed as hunches, as they’re based on a small sample of grantee organizations. Key among them: BUILD’s support has allowed organizations to act with greater intentionality in social justice missions, and BUILD has deepened the trust between Ford and grantee organizations. These and other early lessons are derived from interviews with representatives from 47 grantee organizations and 22 members of the Ford staff.

The report details the institutional conditions--the existence of transparency, for instance--necessary for BUILD to work at all, and offers two case studies of groupings of grantees to illustrate where BUILD can succeed and where it faces challenges. The first case study is a longitudinal examination that analyzes changes among different categories of grantees over time. The second examines how a group of grantees deals with a particular challenge or opportunity. It breaks down BUILD grantees by region, amount of money committed, social justice themes, and other parameters. It investigates different methods of disbursing grants; considers the imperative to have grantees in the driver’s seat; addresses the stability that BUILD provides many grantees; and other issues that arise in the evolving relationship between philanthropy and grantee.