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Innovation and Evaluation are Inseparable

On August 12th, thought leaders from diverse organizations and viewpoints came together for a roundtable workshop to discuss...

On August 12th, thought leaders from diverse organizations and viewpoints came together for a roundtable workshop to discuss the theme of this series, Innovation in Evaluation. The resulting conversations were inspiring and productive. As a platform for discussion, each of us shared a story, case study, or tool that has prompted us to rethink or refine our measurement approach. Our group was made up of people who are already thinking innovatively about evaluation, which helped us cover a lot of ground quickly.

Participants in the August 12th workshop:


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Anne Marie Bourgone Draper Richards Foundation
Paul Breloff Consultant
Jacquelyn Hadley Bridgespan
Lakshmi Karan Skoll Foundation
Gabriel Kasper Monitor Institute
Tatyana Mamut IDEO
Sara Olsen SVT Group
Hallie Preskill FSG
Brad Presner Acumen Fund
Max Schorr GOOD
Aaron Sklar IDEO
Doug Solomon IDEO
Sean Stannard-Stockton Tactical Philanthropy
Jocelyn Wyatt IDEO


The IDEO team set the stage with a short presentation explaining the motivations and approach of an innovation firm like ours to engage in the evaluation arena. Connecting the innovation and evaluation efforts makes us better designers, makes our work stronger, and increases our impact in the world. In fact, the theme of the day was that innovation and evaluation are inseparable. Introducing the evaluation viewpoint early on in the innovation process enhances the resulting innovation and improves the effectiveness of the evaluation. Please see this linked presentation for a review of our five principles.

Throughout the day, all of the workshop participants generated challenging questions. The walls were filled with post-its, and the session ended with an intensive clustering, sorting, and voting exercise which elevated the major themes. The resulting subjects have been synthesized into the following ten challenges which will serve as the questions we ask for the remaining ten weeks of this blog conversation. Please join in the discussion each week as we explore the following challenges:

August 26: How might we put people at the center of evaluation?

September 2: How might we celebrate learning through evaluation?

September 9: How might we increase comfort as we navigate uncertainty?

September 16: How might we leverage informed intuition for decision-making?

September 23: How might we zoom out to evaluating with a systemic view?

September 30: How might we measure what's most meaningful?

October 7: How might we visualize data in more effective and inspiring ways?

October 14: How might we evaluate in the appropriate time frame?

October 21: How might we use the right tools and methods for the task?

October 28: How might we emphasize cost-effective evaluation tools?

For this week, I invite you to continue the conversation we started at the round table and comment on one of the following questions:

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  • How have you incorporated evaluation into the innovation process?

  • What innovative approaches to evaluation have you seen?

  • What are some of the most inspiring trends you've noticed in the field of evaluation?







Guest blogger Aaron Sklar leads IDEO's initiative on measuring social impact. Photo by Todd Parsons.

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