December 1, 2002
Wiener Center for Social Policy, Kennedy School of Government
A common complaint about foundation-funded initiatives is that "foundations too often fail to do enough, early enough, to ensure sustainability." This paper offers ideas for the roles that evaluation can play in helping foundations ensure a discussion about sustainability is started early enough and maintained throughout an initiative. It proposes that evaluation can support initiative sustainability by:
1) Supporting sustainability through strategy - Evaluators and evaluation can advise and facilitate initiative strategy development. In doing this, evaluators can help foundations to build in a direct and deliberate focus on sustainability as foundations contemplate the formation of the initiative's strategy, engage in strategic planning, and manage the initiative's implementation.
2) Supporting sustainability with evaluation - Evaluation practice should treat sustainability as an outcome, track its progress, and feed back regular information that can be used to ensure sustainability is on course, and if not, to point to opportunities for midcourse corrections. Sustainability is not just about continuous funding, however, and it can be operationalized and tracked in a number of ways.
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