Key Points

Learning circles are an approach where individuals with a common interest meet regularly to learn from each other about a self-identified topic in a format chosen by the group. Honoring a group’s collective wisdom, centering participants’ learning needs, and prioritizing relationships and trust are all features of learning circles. This practice is of increasing interest to funders and evaluators as a tool for practicing learning and evaluation aligned with the Equitable Evaluation Framework™.

Kansas Health Foundation and its strategic learning partners, Innovation Network and Harder+Company Community Research, are exploring learning circles in two of the foundation’s initiatives: Integrated Voter Engagement and the Kansas Digital Equity and Inclusion Collaborative. The foundation further applied the learning circle approach to the evaluation of these initiatives as part of its own practice in equitable grantmaking. By doing so, it is strategically following the lead of and yielding power to initiative partners.

This article shares the authors’ individual experiences and collective reflections on being in the EEF practice, striving to shift ownership of the evaluation from foundations to participants. We offer considerations on 1) the foundation’s transition to equitable grantmaking and evaluation, 2) the formation and evolution of each learning circle project, and 3) what it takes to practice this approach in line with the EEF.

Open Access