Project Evident 2017 Year End Update

Dear Friends,

The end of the year presents us with a terrific opportunity to reflect, take stock and be grateful. Your encouragement and support have afforded us the time, space and stability to take up our work.

A Good Beginning Makes a Good End

On April 17th, Gabriel Rhoads and I stepped out of our roles at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and into a WeWorks office to launch Project Evident. Since then we have been joined by an incredibly talented, committed and diverse team.

Our charge: to test the concept of a shared-services platform, designed to help scale evidence-based programs, by providing practitioners with the frameworks, tools and talent to strategically develop their own evidence. Our early insights indicated that we needed to

  • support nonprofits in moving into the lead — from being the caboose of the evidence-building train to being the engine — and
  • break the one-study-at-a-time approach to evaluation and replace it with a continual practice within nonprofit organizations.

We firmly believe that putting nonprofits at the center of the work and supporting them in leading and redirecting funding will increase the supply of effective solutions for vulnerable communities.

Since April, we

  • developed and launched an approach for strategic evidence building plans
  • developed several tools to support data assessment, policy mapping and procurement approaches and
  • began to explore rapid-cycle tools.

We are on track to launch additional talent and tools pilots, a Fellows program and a solutions repository next year.

It’s Not What Stands in Front of You, It’s Who Stands Beside You

Of note is our work with Center for Employment Opportunities, First Place for Youth and PowerMyLearning, our pioneer nonprofit partners, who have prototyped the strategic evidence planning process with us. Our next set of engagements include HealthySteps/Zero to Three, Upstream USA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. We look forward to selecting additional partners in early 2018 from our pipeline of thirty candidates.

We are incredibly fortunate in the support we get from our philanthropic partners. Investments from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Barr Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation fuel our work. Our strategic collaborators Child Focus, Context Partners, Deloitte Monitor, Independent Sector, Mathematica, Results for America and WestEd strengthen our efforts and widen our reach. We benefit from guidance from our Advisory Board, Data Strategy Group and National Evaluation Advisory Board and individual Strategic Advisors. We so appreciate your support and thank you all.

Progress Is Impossible Without Change

While these are early days, signals are strong. The initial strategic evidence plans are showing signs of stickiness and nonprofit leaders are interested in taking advantage of access to expertise to run their own experiments in validating methodology. More and more nonprofits are understanding how everyday tools and practices can be deployed for this work and the supply of quality data is improving. More importantly, funders and policy makers are demonstrating more openness to evidence-based solutions rooted in community efforts.

We can see a path to a future in which nonprofit leaders become the new evidence generators and continual program improvement and learning drive impact. In short, we see a world where this is standard practice for any leading organization serving vulnerable communities.

Our goal is to win, by the close of the year, the right to scale based on a compelling and fundable vision of the future. We enter 2018 deeply focused on the road ahead.

We anticipate a year of aggressive parallel efforts to meet our present goals while planning the future. Quarter one revolves around delivering more strategic evidence plans, testing tools to fuel change experiments and launching strategic planning and field building efforts.

We do face competitive pressures and growing pains, but our financial and human capital assets outweigh our liabilities. We are blessed with a talented team, supportive investors and, most important, a compelling pipeline of nonprofits who want to work with us.

We can think boldly and execute productively because of your support, guidance and friendship. You challenge our thinking, encourage us to do better, remind us to remain “constructively dissatisfied” and drive us to action. Your support powers our work. Thank you for your contributions and faith.

Together, we can both increase the supply of evidence-based programs by empowering leaders and advance a new normal in which nonprofits and funders know that their work helps those who need it most.

With gratitude,

Kelly Fitzsimmons