Funders Learning & Evaluation Group Promotes Shared Understanding

Blog post by the Capacity Building Task Force of the Funders Learning & Evaluation Group (FLEG)

What does it look like when a group of people are brought together by an interest in their own learning and evaluation strategies?  What if they are curious about how this intersects with the strategies of others, like grantees?  In September of 2015, a network of funders formed FLEG, or the St. Louis Area Funders Learning and Evaluation Group, to explore these questions further.

FLEG members actively seek to learn from one another, collaborate, align and coordinate in order to collectively strengthen their capacity and the capacity of those they fund.  FLEG continually evaluates and learns from their efforts.  To help facilitate this, the group convenes three to four times each year and brings the Capacity Building, Data and Grantee Voice Task Forces together to help focus on FLEG’s current priorities.  Instead of one leader, FLEG uses a shared leadership model, so the co-chairs of each Task Force take turns in coordinating, facilitating and following-up each meeting.

In February, March and April of this year, FLEG’s Capacity Building Task Force conducted a three-hour training that was offered to grantees.  Called “Defining & Measuring Success,” this interactive workshop was oriented toward agencies with limited evaluation experience and those wanting to refresh their basic knowledge.  Content centered around performance management, theories of change and approaches to creating a roadmap for success.  Participants also learned about logic models and had the opportunity to apply them in their own context.  These workshops were FLEG’s first joint effort.

Offered at no charge, the workshop repeated itself three times at different locations around the St. Louis area in order to accommodate as many interested participants as possible.  Each session covered the same material, and every registered agency could send up to three representatives.

pic 2The timeframe to plan, execute and assess this joint effort was about six months.  In addition to these larger components, FLEG Capacity Building Task Force members distributed tasks related to communications, registration and other logistics.  The workshop was promoted among FLEG’s grantees, and with a total attendance of 71 individuals, the Task Force was pleased with the high satisfaction rate that was reported by 70.4% attendees who completed evaluation surveys.

So what did this group that is so intentional about learning gain from this experience?

By design, each Task Force is self-directed, and members rely heavily on each other for timely communication and assignment follow through.  This culture allows the team to be nimble, as trust among each other has been firmly established.  Members are connected to one another by their values around learning and evaluation, as well as by their commitment to each other, funders and grantees.

The Task Forces have been together for more than two years now, and while members have come and gone, this synergy helps each subgroup function uniquely and efficiently.  Collaboration has become essential to work flow, and a true sense of shared responsibility exists, as FLEG operates with virtually no budget.

FLEG members bring what they can from the organizations they represent, often times in the form of time and talent with little treasure.  This level of “skin in the game” makes the effort more grassroots-like, but the structure is still manageable, and the work is fulfilling.  Time will enlighten FLEG about its impact.

As FLEG considers its next joint effort, the first collaborative experience has reinforced that there is greater success, at least in the short term, when working together.  FLEG has plans for more joint efforts in 2018 and 2019.  To learn more, please email stlouisfleg@gmail.com.

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