Roundtable: How Nonprofits Are Using Strategic Evidence Plans to Lead Continuous Evidence Generation and Program Improvement
(Public and Non-Profit Management and Finance)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Moderators:  Beth Boulay, Project Evident
Speakers:  Brad Dudding, Center for Employment Opportunities, Meghan Wells, PowerMyLearning, Rebecca Maynard, University of Pennsylvania and Gabriel Rhoads, Project Evident

Nonprofits are eager to make use of rapid and continuous research methods that can improve program quality and can build to larger evaluations to assess impact of program models. Based on surveys of nonprofit leaders, Project Evident has found that many nonprofits need support to realize these goals.  The strategic evidence planning process holds promise in meeting this need and identifying ways nonprofits can leverage innovative technologies and techniques.


A Strategic Evidence Plans (SEP) is a multi-year roadmap to guide investments and activities for continuous evidence generation and program improvement supported by technical assistance for implementation and funder outreach.


This roundtable will include reflections with two nonprofits that are early adopters of SEPs, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), and PowerMyLearning. Both organizations built on their existing evidence base to develop detailed plans about how they will continuously generate evidence moving forward to inform their ongoing program operation, and partner for external evaluation in the future. The roundtable will focus on these two cases, and take up questions including: what has been the experience in these nonprofits with building and using evidence; what barriers do these nonprofit organizations and practitioners face in using evidence to guide ongoing program operations; how can an evidence strategy address these and create opportunities for iterative and collaborative evidence building; and how can the field support this work? The roundtable will also include findings from the research that lead to the design of the SEP process, and reflections from a member of the Project Evident National Evaluation Advisory Board.


Background on the Center for Employment Opportunities Strategic Evidence Plan:


CEO is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with recent criminal convictions through employment. CEO’s structured and tightly supervised program seeks to make participants job-ready, stay employed, and remain free from incarceration. Through the SEP process, CEO focused on building capacity to answer key assumptions relative to their theory of change. This allowed the team to set forth a plan designed to accelerate CEO’s ability to improve outcomes for participants and validate impact. The SEP has identified new tools and talent required to support CEO’s desire to conduct their own small tests of change to iterate program services; a framework for strengthening their continuous learning processes; and data systems that meet staff needs.


Background on the PowerMyLearning Strategic Evidence Plan:


Family Playlists are an innovation developed by PowerMyLearning, a national education nonprofit, that seek to improve children’s academic mastery and social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes by strengthening the “Triangle” of learning relationships between students, teachers, and families. Family Playlists currently support grades 3 to 8 in math, science, and English Language Arts.   The SEP provides PowerMyLearning a multi-year roadmap to accelerate understanding about how to implement and improve Family Playlists to optimize teacher adoption and maximize student outcomes in the next three years, building to a rigorous impact study to test the effectiveness of Family Playlists on student SEL and academic mastery. PowerMyLearning intends to take learning from this SEP and apply it across their organization.