Our work requires that we have a clear, coherent strategy for each initiative, along with appropriate progress and success measures. We develop our strategies in interdisciplinary teams that bring together expertise in program, research and evaluation, and communications.
Developing the strategy that guides our grant-making typically involves these steps:
For new work, we define as precisely as we can the problem that needs to be solved. Then we ask why Wallace should take it on, who else is working in this area and what Wallace is uniquely positioned to contribute. The answers to these questions can reveal opportunities for collaboration and help us avoid duplication of efforts. We also ask ourselves the basis of our thinking and why we think we have the opportunity to make progress.
If we are considering how to proceed with an existing initiative, we want to know first what more, if anything, we should do and why. For example, are there modest knowledge gaps that, if filled, would strengthen the impact of our work? We also ask what aspects of our work are worth sharing and encouraging others to adopt. What’s the audience that could use the information to change things for the better, and how do we best reach that audience? Beyond disseminating what we have learned, is there other “next generation” work we should consider?
Analysis of Available Research
We look at research to help us decide how we might help solve the problem. How reliable is the research? What does it say and what does it suggest for problems we want to help solve?
After we have defined the problem and researched it, we consider approaches to attacking it. What’s been tried before? What aspects of previous efforts succeeded and what did not? Why? What approaches would have the broadest impact? Can their progress be measured? If so, how? What organizations – non-profits, government or both – should be engaged to carry out the work? What are the pros and cons of the potential strategies, and which ones do we think are the most promising?
Once we have answered these questions, we draw up a “theory of change,” which can be thought of as a description of an “if-then” statement for each strategy we want to pursue: if we invest in doing something in a certain way, then we expect a particular result that we can measure. We also describe what that measurement will be.
Even the best strategy is likely to fail without effective execution. Wallace staff members monitor grantees’ work through regular check-ins with grant recipients, careful review of budgets and analysis of reports, and preparation of critical analyses of the initiative work and other assessments. This sometimes leads to strategy adjustments along the way.