How We Measure
Foundation strategies define the most important outcomes that we seek to achieve in collaboration with partners. Clear and specific outcomes provide foundation teams with a blueprint that guides program officer and partner dialog—this enables strong alignment on the outcomes of specific investments or groups of investments. Defining and aligning on investment outcomes and the data needed to measure them is the basis of our grant making approach. We call this outcome investing.
We purposefully do not measure every result of a strategy, a portfolio of investments, or an individual investment. Instead, program officers and partners identify the most critical metrics of progress that support continued learning, adjustment, and alignment. We are more interested in working with partners to define and measure results rather inputs and activities. Although we know this is difficult to do well, the foundation is eager to support this type of focused and selective measurement. We recognize that improving this practice is a journey that will not happen overnight.
The foundation invests across many different sectors—global health, global development and US education are our major program areas. Even within these areas, though, there is diversity in the type of work that partners do. Depending on the type of work, the nature and frequency of what we measure may vary. Results from partnerships that enable a new research discovery, for example, may have a longer time horizon than those focused on increasing use of an innovative agricultural practice or increasing country vaccination rates. We adapt our approach based on best practices across different disciplines and sectors, but always emphasize a preference for actionable measurement; in other words, the data we and our partners collect should be used to do something differently to improve people’s lives, not sit as a report on someone’s shelf.
How We Use Evaluation
Achieving our ambitious goals requires rigorous evaluation so we and our partners can continually improve how we carry out our work. When done well, evaluation is a powerful tool that can inform foundation and partner decision making about how best to invest scarce resources for maximum impact.
Because we support a diverse range of partners and projects around the world—from developing and testing products to delivering services and engaging in policy advocacy, our evaluation practices have to flexible and appropriate to the purpose. Our foundation-wide evaluation policy sets parameters for evaluation and clearly articulates how and why we use evaluation and where variation is warranted.
Our evaluation policy is rooted in our business model, which involves working with partners to achieve the greatest impact. We consider evaluation to be a collaborative learning tool that provides us and our partners with feedback so we can improve, adjust, and decide how best to achieve outcomes. We purposefully do not measure every result of a program, investment, or portfolio of investments, and we do not try to sum up the difference that foundation resources are making in people’s lives.
Early in the grantmaking process, our program teams work with partners to determine whether evaluation will be warranted and what resources will be needed to produce useful evaluations. We also work to ensure that our partners have the capacity and support to generate quality evidence that can inform decision making and facilitate improvements.
We recognize that our approach to evaluation is important to our partners and has implications for our work together. We also acknowledge the vigorous debate about evaluation methods that is occurring across many fields in which we work. As our evaluation policy details, we value a purpose-driven approach that avoids one-size-fits-all prescriptions. This is the starting point of our larger effort to make selective, high-quality evaluation an integral part of how we operate and carry out our work.