Brenda Solarzano from Headwaters Foundation in Western Montana is a leading changemaker on trust-based learning and evaluation in philanthropy. In this candid session, she will discuss how she moved from dissatisfaction with the way evaluation works and the limits of what it can teach us, to build an approach to evaluation for learning – something that is better, more values-aligned, and that helps us be better funders.
In rapid time, we have seen trust-based philanthropy grow from a seed of an idea to an often-referenced term in our sector’s largest conferences and publications. Many events in the last few years have fuelled a new and necessary urgency for funders to do this work differently, and more impactfully. Meanwhile, evaluation has been a step behind in the swift uptake of trust-based philanthropy.
Brenda has created a process that centres learning together, positioning grantees and the foundation as true partners. She evaluates for three purposes – accountability to the communities we serve, learning about progress toward the outcomes defined by our partners, and tracking long-term health metrics over time to see if the strategies that Headwaters invests in are contributing to positive trends.