Early 2020 sparked an urgency for foundations to work equitably and adapt quickly, while also reflecting deeply on their roles in society and the alignment between their operations and values. The covid-19 pandemic and murder of George Floyd have brought to the forefront the long-held assumptions about how foundations should work and be held accountable. Many foundations have begun to explore significant changes to their practices. Along the way, they have also been forced to learn, reflect, and adapt in unprecedented ways.
We wanted to know whether developing an organizational learning culture yields benefits in terms of better evaluation outcomes as well as stronger more adaptive decision-making.
In interviews with seven foundations from Canada and the U.S. in the summer and fall of 2020, we spent time applying the lens of organizational learning to how each of these foundations made sense of their reality, asked different kinds of questions to inform their thinking, and acted in new or different ways as a result.
In our report: Approaches to Learning Amid Crises: Reflections from Philanthropy, we lift up examples of how foundations have reacted and specifically what and how they are learning.