Capacity Building for Strategic Learning Using an Intermediary-Led Grantee Cohort Model: Recommendations for Funders
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
From May 2020 to September 2021, Mathematica and Catalyst:Ed partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a set of nine K–12 education grantees for the Capacity Building for Strategic Learning (CBSL) pilot initiative.
The partnership defined equity-centered strategic learning as the set of efforts that enables organizations to set goals that contribute to increased educational equity for Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty; establish hypotheses on how to reach their goals; build strong organizational culture, practices and systems that support implementing and testing those hypotheses; and use information to improve their model on an ongoing basis. Critically, the partnership believes that strong equity-centered strategic learning is demonstrated when equity is considered in not only the organization’s goal but also in its learning and decision-making approach. The initiative’s goal was to strengthen grantee capacity for equity-centered strategic learning by helping grantees scope projects in their area of need, matching grantees with providers that could help build organizational capacity, delivering cohort learning activities, and offering thought partnership.
This document contains recommendations for funders and other intermediaries looking to support similar strategic learning work. Recommendations include evidence on the importance of strategic learning work and concrete tips for starting and sustaining a successful initiative.