Evaluation at the Hewlett Foundation


Lucy Bernholz



Lucy Bernholz

Lucy Bernholz

The Hewlett Foundation recently posted an internal working paper on evaluation on its website. I love this – an internal working paper posted on an external website (helloo, sharing!)

The paper is well worth a read. The link is a bit buried on the site, deep into an interview with Fay Twersky, the new head of Hewlett’s Effective Philanthropy Group, but the interview with Fay (co-author of the paper) is also worth the read. Perhaps this practice of interviews with Program leadership and sharing of their internal papers will become common practice for foundations.

The paper is useful for grantees, evaluation partners, and other foundations. I particularly value the succinct declaration of principles for evaluation, which I’ve paraphrased below:

Seven Principles of Evaluation at The Hewlett Foundation

  • Lead with purpose (Know why you are doing it – what will the evaluation results inform?)
  • Evaluation is a learning process (so prepare to learn, change, adapt)
  • Evaluation is part of the strategy process (and should start at the beginning)
  • Make strategic choices about what to evaluate (not everything is worth evaluating)
  • Choose methods to maximize rigour without compromising relevance (do it as best you can while making it useful)
  • Share the results!
  • Use the data!

You can download the paper here.

Let’s hope this kind of information sharing is the start of a trend.

Lucy Bernholz is the author of the blog philanthropy2173, where this article first appeared.

Tagged in: evaluation Hewlett Foundation Information sharing

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