Beat the Curve Through Evaluation with a Diversity Lens (EDL)

EDL Increases Diversity AND EffectivenessEven if the economy recovers this year, you're likely to have fewer grantmaking dollars available next year because of the wacky world of endowment economics. What kind of evaluation tools are you using to help your grantees do more with less while preserving and growing your base of support in the community?

An increasing number of foundations are turning to evaluation with a diversity lens (EDL) to ensure they remain effective. Even if your work doesn't focus on diversity, using the principles of EDL will help strengthen the impact of your grants, deepen your connection to the community, and transform evaluation into a learning process (as opposed to a simplified measure of cause and effect).

Here's how: One of philanthropy's leading authorities on EDL, Dr. Ricardo Millet , says that EDL's tools allow you to engage the community in constant and authentic contact that invites a diversity of input, not only from all the various cultural stakeholders but through the variety of ways for them to access you.

This includes inviting grantees and a range of diverse community leaders to discuss program strategy and offer input on key strategic planning decisions, such as determining the underlying causes of community challenges and collectively setting benchmarks that address them. Staff and board members also need to have a cultural makeup that reflects the community and understand how this facilitates communication and achieves results. Realize that EDL isn't about cause and effect so much as learning and growing.

EDL is still an emerging field of evaluation study, which means right now you have a great opportunity to affect its growth. You can participate in field-wide discussions about it and offer suggestions for best practices based on your observations.

Dr. Millett has agreed to respond to readers' questions and comments about EDL. You can reach him at the following e-mail address:

For more information: Check out  GrantCraft's publication on a similar concept, grantmaking with a racial equity lens, and also check out the website of Diversity in Philanthropy later in June, when Dr. Millett's case study on EDL is published (at this link).