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Supporting Learning and Evaluation for Biomedical Research

FSG worked with the Chicago Biomedical Consortium on building a system to support strategic learning and evaluation.

Founded in 2001, the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) brings together scientists from Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and others to foster collaboration and to support and accelerate biomedical research. Kinship Foundation, the private operating foundation that manages the institutional philanthropy of the Searle Family, has had a significant role in shaping the strategic direction of the CBC.

In 2017, the CBC hired a new executive director and began living into an updated 5-year plan. The plan looked beyond grantmaking to support the CBC during a time of growth and transition. With guidance from Kinship Foundation, the CBC engaged FSG to help develop a strategic learning and evaluation system for their next phase of work. FSG previously worked with Kinship Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust to create a strategic learning and evaluation system for their Food:Land:Opportunity initiative.

To begin, FSG interviewed the CBC staff to understand what they hoped the strategic learning and evaluation system would allow them to do; this resulted in 3 key goals:

  • Better understand what difference the organization is making and whether they are making progress toward long-term impact
  • Stay up-to-date on trends in the biomedical ecosystem in Chicago
  • Help make ongoing adjustments to programs and strategy for greater effectiveness

Based on these goals, FSG collaborated with CBC’s staff to build a customized approach for ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and learning. The system was informed by a series of working sessions, extensive document review, and the development of 3 case studies of research consortiums which provided CBC with context on how similar organizations were established and grew over time.

FSG helped to build our team and changed our mindset—we’ve become more intentional and more focused. Working with FSG made me a much more effective Executive Director.

Jim Audia, PhD
Executive Director, Chicago Biomedical Consortium

The strategic learning and evaluation system included an evaluation and learning vision, a theory of change, strategic learning questions, monitoring, research, and evaluation activities, a communications plan for sharing their learning with external partners and funders, and a learning plan that articulated ways in which the CBC staff could embed learning activities into their every-day work.

FSG also provided CBC with a roadmap and budget for implementing the system, ensuring that it served the organization and helped advance its mission of accelerating discovery that will transform biomedical research and improve the health of humankind.

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Learn more about FSG’s Strategic Learning & Evaluation services >

About Chicago Biomedical Consortium
The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) is a research and education collaboration of Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and University of Chicago others working to accelerate discovery and transform biomedical research.

About the Kinship Foundation
Kinship Foundation is a private operating foundation established to advance the institutional philanthropy of the Searle Family. The Foundation has three areas of focus: biomedical research, environmental conservation, and education. Its work includes developing and supporting Chicago-based grantmaking initiatives through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust; administering the Searle Scholars Program, a national biomedical research grant program; and operating Kinship Conservation Fellows, a global environmental leadership program.

The CBC receives funding through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.