Equitable Capacity Building: Organizational Learning & Equitable Evaluation

"I Have a Dream" Foundation (IHDF)
Funder: "I Have a Dream" Foundation
Project Time Period: 2015-2016

Project Category: Education & STEAM/Post-Secondary Education/Evaluation and Performance Measurement Capacity Building

About IHDF: The "I Have A Dream" Foundation (IHDF) provides individualized social, emotional, and academic support to young people from low-income communities from kindergarten all the way through college, along with guaranteed tuition support.

The Work: MAI worked with IHDF over 15 months to design a performance measurement strategy and generate an evaluation plan.  The project was undertaken to further the growth of the organization, including helping the national office and their 15 affiliates and 36 programs develop a unified vision for their programmatic approach, a culture, and systems related to performance measurement, and preparation for a rigorous external evaluation of academic outcomes of participants in the future. As part of the project, MAI developed processes for collecting high-quality data at the national and local levels, developed data collection tools including an outcomes framework model, data dictionary, surveys, templates, and processes for gathering data; provide guidance in selecting an appropriate performance management technology system; conducted a thorough assessment of the evaluation and performance measurement capacities of affiliates and programs; analysis of data collected through a pilot data collection effort—including demographic, participation, academic achievement, and assessment data.

What We Learned: IHDF’s federated structure—a national office with a network of affiliates that are independent 501(c)3s–presents unique challenges for performance measurement. National offices have to find the balance between giving affiliates autonomy and holding them accountable for adhering to the national office’s standards and protocols. MAI’s work served as a foundation to build a data-informed culture at the national and affiliate levels. IHDF took the lead with the affiliates—leading workgroup and training sessions—with MAI working behind the scenes. This approach bolstered the national office’s relationships with the affiliates setting the stage for securing their buy-in to a national performance measurement system. 

MAI strives to leave our clients with the tools, knowledge, and capacities they need to carry on the work in our absence. IHDF continues to collect data from affiliates (and monitors it to ensure quality), works with low-capacity affiliates to build up their abilities to collect and use data, is able to make data-informed decisions, and has begun implementing the national performance management database that we supported IHDF in identifying.