The purpose of the resource hub is to create a space for evaluators, evaluation commissioners, and funders to better understand ways to assess causal contribution in complex contexts and to access the tools and knowledge they need to do this work well.
This is an evolving page of resources. We will be updating this page throughout the year so make sure to check back for new resources! Join our mailing list to get monthly updates.
This document articulates a shared understanding of the concept of “causal pathways'' in evaluation and strategy. Authorship of this document was led by Heather Britt, with contributions and feedback from Carlisle Levine, Steve Powell, Giel Ton, Marina Apgar, Rick Davies, Sarah Stachowiak, James Copestake, and Jewlya Lynn.
When philanthropy seeks to drive change — especially in messy, complex, and dynamic systems — it can feel like strategy development and implementation takes place in the proverbial “black box.” We select ideas that are promising, have reasonably high confidence that positive short-term outcomes will occur, and then hold out hope that the strategy will eventually add up to more than the sum of its parts.
Emerging from the field building work, in the fall of 2021, the Walton Family Foundation supported a series of discussions with leading methodologists and evaluators focused on a core premise: Understanding the causal pathways in complex, dynamic settings can be an important learning input to the work of social change agents including those in and supported by philanthropy.
The participants identified a set of five experiments to strengthen the ability of social change agents (including philanthropy) to see more deeply into how change is happening and learn from it to inform their strategies. Interested in learning more? The report provides a list of participants, more definition and context, and descriptions of the experiments.
In early 2021, as part of a larger organization-wide strategic planning process, the Walton Family Foundation Strategy, Learning and Evaluation Department undertook a team-based process of identifying areas of the larger philanthropic evaluation field that the foundation can (1) support; (2) learn from; and (3) provide some level of leadership to as it develops and strengthens over time. Multiple topics were explored internally and then with 18 leaders from the philanthropic evaluation field (see the acknowledgements for a list), including both evaluators (within and outside of philanthropic organizations) and program staff who commission and utilize evaluations.