Hitting pause while pushing forward to embed EE

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PROJECT: The Oregon Community Foundation - EE Coaching

Working with the Research Department at the The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) allows EE to be explored internally, developing a shared understanding across a team that influences evaluative practice within and beyond the foundation.

You can read their previous Emerging Learning here.


By: Sonia Worcel, Kim Leonard, Madeline Brandt, Caitlin Ruffenach, and Zoe Flanagan

With which EEI community do you identify?

Philanthropy

What is the status of this project?

Since our last post we had intended to spend time at the start of 2019 planning for the year, including identifying where and how we wanted to further our EE learning and implementation. Instead, we purposely hit the “pause” button because of changes within and outside of our team (sound familiar)?  OCF announced a large reorganization involving the merger of the Research Department with the Grants & Programs Department along with different roles for some team members.

Now that you are deeper into your work, where are you gaining traction in advancing EE principles?

While our broader planning efforts are on hold, we realized that OCF’s reorganization provides a great opportunity to embed and connect our EE work within the foundation. Jara encouraged us to think about how EE can be part of the “dust” that is being kicked up in the reorganization so that we can ensure that it settles back down in as many places as possible. We love this visual and have taken it to heart. It is time to move EE out of just the research team. Even if we don’t feel like confident experts (and really who is)  it is still time to share the EE principles more broadly within OCF.

In fact, sharing this work while we are actively learning ourselves will help us invite others in to the work. We’ve realized that if we are too careful about getting it “right,” we may never move forward, and lose the opportunity to promote inclusion in the learning and culture shift itself. The team’s merger with OCF’s program staff as part of the creation of a new department (and all the culture-building and collaborative work that will go along with it) provides a natural opportunity to do this.

Why do you think that is?

The new department will encompass OCF’s grantmaking programs, strategy development, initiatives and partnerships, public policy, and research and evaluation. EE principles and an examination of the orthodoxies can be valuable to this work. Having a shared understanding of EE could be one way to unify the new department and could increase the foundation’s practice of equity, diversity and inclusion.

We are also getting more comfortable with where we are in the learning process, recognizing that doing this work together is of great value, and that bringing others in will bring only benefits.

What’s next? What do you need to consider to keep things moving?

We need to stay active on two fronts.

First, with the reorganization comes multiple opportunities, particularly later this year (department meetings, retreats, etc.) to kick EE up into the dust.

Second, we also will need to pick up again with the work we have paused: eventually doing the more in-depth planning for our team as well as continuing to reflect on our ongoing—and new—research and evaluation projects (as we described in our last post). This will help us continually explore ways to institutionalize and operationalize EE, and to get used to integrating it, making it a part of our ongoing practice.

In the meantime, we’re already noticing potential partners and small but meaningful opportunities to integrate EE into our inquiry--people and places where we can, and may have already begun, to kick EE up into the dust. And to help us get clear and comfortable with the language of EE, we’re beginning to work on articulating how EE connects to broader foundation values and the way that we do program evaluation (and why). We recently started this conversation with colleagues at an informal “lunch and learn” about program evaluation at OCF by sharing the EE orthodoxies and reflecting on how they show up in our work and what we can do to address them.