Using Evidence for Change

Memo /

Eight California-based nonprofit organizations are set to begin a 10-month Fellowship focused on putting data and evidence to practical use

Stanford nonprofit fellowship

Stanford Impact Labs is delighted to introduce our inaugural Evidence for Change cohort of eight California-based nonprofit organizations. The Evidence for Change Fellowship supports nonprofits over a 10-month period by providing funding, workshops, and one-on-one technical support to build out and implement a plan for putting data and evidence to use.

Our inaugural cohort consists of eight organizations working across the state on a range of pressing social issues, and grappling with big questions as to how they can better leverage data and evidence to understand and drive their impact.

Congratulations and Welcome to:

These eight organizations were selected through an open-application and interview process. We were overwhelmed by the volume and quality of applications we received in launching the fellowship, which reinforces the need and demand for this kind of program. We are grateful to everyone who took the time to apply.

Through the application process, we learned quite a bit about the range and diversity of organizations keen to invest in leveraging evidence and data, and to what end. We heard from large organizations with well-established learning and evaluation teams as well as brand-new non-profits staffed by just one or two people. We heard from community centers that provide food, housing, and after-school programs; coalitions of organizations campaigning for a specific policy change; organizations supporting youth and adults with the skills to build power in their communities; and local chapters of national non-profits providing a wide range of direct services. Across all of these organizations, some broad categories of use-cases for data and evidence stood out:

  • Many nonprofits are already collecting data on specific program outcomes for grant reporting, but want to develop systems to capture their overall impact as an organization, and use that as a guide for making decisions about where to channel energy and resources. 
  • A lot of organizations have access to large databases, and know intuitively they can do more with that data, but have not (to date) had the time and resources to make potential advances.
  • We heard from organizations that want to build a culture of learning based on data and evidence—rather than regard data through a lens of accountability or as something that is purely the responsibility of a few team members.
  • Some organizations working for policy change reported that they know evidence and data speak to their audience, so they want to discern which data is most effective and how best to strategically use it. 
  • Finally, some groups explained that they know intuitively that their programs are working and they need to be able to share the what and the how of that efficacy with others. Leveraging data and evidence to identify and document what exactly is driving impact will allow them to scale their efforts and support other organizations to do the same.

As the Fellowship gets underway, the SIL team is also excited to collaborate and consult throughout the ten months with two impact coaches: Lindsey Wang and Marisa Arrona. Lindsey and Marisa are joining the Evidence for Change team to share their expertise on all things data for advocacy, building data systems and processes, and leveraging evidence to design, learn and maximize impact.

Marisa is the California Innovations Director with Californians for Safety and Justice. She brings a wealth of expertise leveraging data and evidence to develop, advocate for, and implement social reforms across the public and nonprofit sectors. Lindsey is the founder of MAE Solutions, where she supports community-based organizations in the housing, education, public health, and racial justice spaces to build data management systems that help scale the impact of the innovative solutions being generated by communities, for communities.

The Evidence for Change team and inaugural cohort will gather on Stanford’s campus on  September 12 for a 3-day workshop to kick off the program. This first workshop is designed to create space for organizations to reflect on the different ways in which evidence and data can support their goals, and build community while planning for how they want to use and apply their fellowship time.