For release in February 2020.
Across the social sectors, a growing number of organizations are embracing continuous improvement approaches and organizing themselves as networks in order to attack complex problems. To succeed, networks must learn quickly by studying their own practices, continuously adapting to changing circumstances within their organizations and in the broader environment, and incorporating this learning into their ongoing work. In this paper, we describe an integrated approach—which we call Evidence for Improvement (EFI)—that explains how a variety of tools and practices drawn from diverse forms of program evaluation can inform the leaders of these networks in advancing productive change. We propose that improvement networks can be conceptualized and measured using a three-level nested model composed of a working theory of improvement, an improvement enterprise, and environmental contexts.
As they engage in inquiry targeted at each level, those with evaluative expertise should become authentic partners with improvement leaders and fully align their analytic efforts with the improvement activities and social contexts of the network. The EFI approach we describe is designed to enhance a network’s internal learning processes and, in turn, lead to more positive impacts for educators and students. It has implications for improvement practitioners, evaluators, and funders.