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Effecting social change in a rapidly changing political environment and an increasingly interconnected world requires foundations to adopt a learning orientation. Without continuous learning, grantmakers—and thus boards and trustees—are unaware about what is working where, with whom, and why, as well as what changes or refinements are needed in order to achieve the grantmakers’ desired results.

Researched and written in collaboration with GEO, this toolkit provides a fresh set of resources for grantmaker CEOs, evaluation staff, and senior leaders to use to engage their boards and trustees in conversations about the importance of strategic learning in their decision-making and deliberation processes.

This piece is a follow-up to FSG’s 2009 publication What’s the Difference: How Foundation Trustees View Evaluation.

Top Takeaways

  1. The piece includes 4 “current realities,” or observations, that reflect factors that may present grantmaker leaders and staff with some challenges to engaging boards and trustees in strategic learning.
  2. We believe there are certain “action imperatives” that require boards and trustees to participate in conversations and activities that support their continuous learning so that they may better support the foundation’s work. We include discussion questions that leaders and staff can use to frame conversations about these topics with boards and trustees.
  3. The toolkit contains 10 tools that CEOs, senior leaders, and evaluation staff can use to engage boards and trustees in a variety of strategic learning conversations.
The board finds the idea of strategic learning really stimulating and exciting because they are learning a lot about the work we do, and… how to relate to people from outside their own community in different ways... So there is some kind of magic going on around this commitment to learning.

Kevin walker, President and CEO
northwest area foundation

This publication was made possible by grants from the Barr Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

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