blueprint

Analysis

Re-imagining measurement

A better future for monitoring, evaluation, and learning in the social sector

Re-imagining measurement is an ongoing initiative to spur innovation in how foundations and nonprofits approach monitoring, evaluation, and learning. In the materials below, you’ll find best thinking from the field about a path to a better future, and a toolkit with bright spots, leading edge practices to spread, and innovations to try.

A call to action

Despite marked advances in the tools and methods for monitoring, evaluation, and learning in the social sector and a burgeoning number of bright spots in practice that are emerging in the field, there is nevertheless broad dissatisfaction across the sector about how data is—or is not—used.

Reimagining measurement has engaged the field in thinking about where monitoring, evaluation, and learning is likely to head over the next decade. Over the course of extensive research and more than 125 conversations with leading foundation executives and program staff, evaluation experts, nonprofit leaders, data wonks, and other stakeholders, it became clear that there is a real divergence between the future people expect for monitoring, evaluation, and learning, and the future people hope for.

If social sector organizations simply continue to act as they have been, the future we get will almost certainly be the future we expect, rather than the future we hope for.

Being clear on where the sector wants to go with monitoring, learning, and evaluation, and on the difference between the expected and better future, can spur determination to change course and a willingness to embrace innovation and experimentation.

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About the initiative

In 2016, with support from the David and Lucile Packard; James Irvine; Robert Wood Johnson; S.D. Bechtel Jr.; W.K. Kellogg; and Wallace foundations, the Monitor Institute by Deloitte launched the Re-imagining Measurement initiative, a year-long, field-wide research and innovation process focused on the future of MEL in philanthropy.

The approach was rooted in innovation principles and practices that have been adapted to spur new thinking not just about individual organizations, but for the social sector as a whole.

For the initiative, we spoke with more than 125 experts and practitioners, developed a “bright spots” catalog with 750 examples, and researched evaluation, monitoring, and learning practices, as well as relevant trends in the field and adjacencies from outside philanthropy.

The goal has been to hold up a mirror to the field—not to endorse any one approach, nor the views of any single institution or project sponsor—and in the process, help individual organizations and the social sector as a whole explore and influence possible futures.

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Where do we want to go

This toolkit includes a range of innovation materials for getting to a better future for monitoring, evaluation, and learning.

This section explores where we are today and what we want the future to be for monitoring, evaluation, and learning in the social sector. It describes:

What are the key trends affecting monitoring, evaluation, and learning?

What are the three characteristics of a better future for monitoring, evaluation, and learning?

What are the expected and better futures for monitoring, evaluation, and learning?

How to use this toolkit

This toolkit is a resource that includes sections with information in both summary and detailed form, so that you can dive into the right material based on the questions you’d like to answer:

  • More effectively putting decision making at the center: Learn more about the elements of the first characteristic for a better future, along with bright spots, adjacencies, and bright spot practices.
  • Better empowering constituents and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion: Learn more about the elements of the second characteristic for a better future, along with bright spots, adjacencies, and bright spot practices.
  • More productively learning at scale: Learn more about the elements of the third characteristic for a better future, along with bright spots, adjacencies, and bright spot practices. 
  • Bright spots: Find an expanded collection of bright spot organizations across different elements of the three characteristics of a better future gathered in one place.
  • Adjacencies: Find an expanded collection of examples from other sectors and types of organizations for each of the three characteristics of a better future to inspire you to make changes at your organization and with others.
  • Orthodoxies: Find examples of beliefs about "how things are done" in monitoring, evaluation, and learning that if “flipped” could lead to new and better ways of working. 
  • Collected bright spot practices: Find the collection of bright spot practices across different elements of the three characteristics of a better future gathered in one place.
  • Calls to action: Find promising new ideas, some for individual organizations and some that can be done in collaboration, to test additional hypotheses about how to get to a better future in each of the three characteristics.
  • Key resources: Find practical guides, tools, and other resources for improving and innovating in each of the three characteristics of a better future.

Explore the toolkit

About Monitor Institute by Deloitte

Monitor Institute by Deloitte works with innovative leaders to surface and spread best practices in public problem solving and to pioneer next practices—breakthrough approaches for addressing social and environmental challenges.

We are well-established leaders on social impact innovation and strategy, working with nonprofits and philanthropies to catalyze progress on the most pressing issues of our time.

We track the evolving terrain of social impact to identify, frame, and disseminate ideas and practices from the social sector that have broader relevance to corporate and government clients.

We help innovative leaders, organizations, and networks in the social sector innovate, set strategy, and drive effectiveness and efficiency.

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