pants. Do the best and the brightest need us? Can we ever really understand the impact of these programs?
Although important, these questions are often sidestepped because of a lack of information on the cohort that did not participate. The information from the foundation’s evaluations is most often formative in nature and used to help inform the next phase of the program. Sometimes that includes major changes, but more often the program is fine-tuned to reflect what the staff learned from the evaluation.
Often, the foundation staff and Board of Trustees have multiple goals for a scholars program. Generally, the interest in building a field with trained scholars takes precedent over building leadership capacity within a group of scholars, but these two goals most often coexist. This fact provides a challenge for the evaluation team. Often, time needs to be spent with foundation staff helping to articulate the major goals for the program.
To improve the flow of information both to and from our alumni scholars, RWJF is in the process of establishing an online tracking initiative. This project will establish a system that keeps information about RWJF scholars and fellows up to date and available to both the national program offices and the foundation. A Web-based system is being planned that will query scholars/fellows once a year and be accessible to program offices to update information throughout the year.
This information will be used to help identify topic areas that these scholars are working in and hopefully the scholars in the foundation’s current work. In addition, this information will allow the foundation to track the career trajectories of this group of grantees. Consistent monitoring of a few key variables over time (e.g., position, publications) will provide tremendous insight into the impact of RWJF’s programs.
Many thanks are offered to the evaluators of these programs and the Grants Results Report Unit at RWJF for extensive information on its programs and evaluations.