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The Delicate Dance: University and community members learn about the intersection of philanthropy and evaluation

December 5, 2014

On Friday, December 5, 2014, the Curtis Center Program Evaluation Group convened a panel to talk with the University and the community about the delicate dance between evaluation and philanthropy.  In total, over 70 people were in attendance, including students and faculty from the School of Social Work, members of the University community, representatives from foundations, consumers of evaluation, and professional evaluators.  The conversation was facilitated and moderated by John Tropman, PhD, Professor of Social work.  Panelists included Harlene Appelman, Executive Director of Covenant Foundation; Rob Collier, President & CEO of Council on Michigan Foundations; Jane Fran Morgan, JFM Consulting; and Pam Smith, President and United Way of Wasthenaw County.

The panel was hosted in conjunction with a mini-course entitled "Philanthropy and Evaluation," co-taught by John Tropman, PhD, and Sue Ann Savas, MSW.  The Program Evaluation Group structures its mini-courses around conferences or community events, which highlight the theme of the courses.  This approach to the course helps to broaden the lens of the students by communicating with people currently working in the field of interest, practicing professionalism, and facilitating networking.

"This course allowed me to think more critically about the intersections of philanthropy and evaluation, and being able to attend the panel allowed me to see how things can get muddy very quickly.  People involved in foundations have a unique privilege that allows them to give away thousands and even millions of dollars.  It makes me think more of the question: Is there a need to evaluate their impact or lack of impact and how can we make this the norm?" - Kayla Mayer, MSW Candidate 2015

"The panel in conjunction with the mini-course allowed me to see the connections between philanthropy and evaluation, learned in class, applied in the real-world." - Cainnear Hogan, MSW Candidate 2015

"I think the course gave me a better understanding of where philanthropy sits in society and how it sometimes acts as a safety net to the public safety net.  The discussion in our course allowed us to question whether this situation is ideal for our society and most vulnerable individuals.  Being able to talk to actual philanthropy directors also gave us, as students, an opportunity to see that they themselves also wonder about their role. I think the course allowed students an insight into a privileged world that will assist us in being able to better work with foundation and philanthropy directors in the future." - Sarah Beu, MSW Candidate 2014

Next semester, the Curtis Center Program Evaluation Group will be hosting the mini-course, "Program Evaluation: From Theory to Practice," which will be tied to a community event on Data Visualization with Dr. Stephanie Evergreen, on February 13, 2015.

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