The Colorado Trust has a long history of commitment to evaluation. Not only have we consistently supported grantees in helping them understand their impact, but we also continually do this for ourselves.

Traditionally, foundations have looked to two types of evaluation to assess impact: summative (looking back at a grant strategy to measure success), and formative (prospectively used to assess how the strategy might be changed to achieve better results). While there is a place for both types of evaluation, strategic learning presents an opportunity to design strategies and continually refine them to achieve the most meaningful impact. Strategic learning is a collaborative process that draws upon multiple data sources—including both types of evaluation—to refine and improve strategy.

Successful strategic learning requires participation at all levels of the foundation as well as grantees, evaluators and other stakeholders. It requires an organizational culture that is openly receptive to change and has the capacity to learn from mistakes and adjust quickly. Input on the implementation of a strategy can come from multiple sources, and each must be considered and valued. The Trust collects data, interprets data and repeatedly incorporates them into our implementation in real-time. With risk comes mistakes and course corrections, but we are committed to making new mistakes and learning from past ones.

Strategic learning comes with numerous tensions, from balancing the need for rigor in evaluation and speed in decision-making, to balancing the desire to reflect thoughtfully on data or act to quickly take advantage of an opportune moment. Yet given the complexity of the task of achieving health equity, The Trust believes a strategic learning approach is the best approach. Through strategic learning, we make evaluation part of our strategies and continually strive to most effectively achieve our goals.

We encourage you to browse our archive of evaluation reports from our grantmaking over the years. For more information on strategic learning in foundations, please download the following reports from the Center for Evaluation Innovation: