Key Points

The need to “widen the aperture” to consider different types and sources of evidence is paramount to sharpening grantmaking strategies that are in service of those we seek to serve. This article describes an underlying process of identifying and applying equity considerations in the evidence considered for strategy development in the context of a large, national foundation.

The aim was to develop a “common evidence base” — the core of which was a database library — and what was understood from the evidence was synthesized to bring together what was currently known, the edges of the foundation’s understanding, and emerging questions.

After the gaps were identified, new ways were tested for bringing the voices of those most impacted more directly to the foundation and into that common evidence base to inform the developing strategy. The aperture of evidence was broadened to recognize that all information has some bias, and that bias can be mitigated by a robust consideration of a broad variety of information centered on the priority population. Using this more expanded view, the foundation team began considering the application of a more equitable approach to the use of evidence in strategy and, later, evaluation, and it was then integrated into various strategy development frameworks and tools.

This article presents what was learned from the exploration of the foundation’s tacit definition of evidence, how a new definition was developed, and some new approaches that were applied to generating evidence that centers the voices of those most impacted.

Open Access