PropelNext is a comprehensive, cohort-based, capacity-building program launched by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) to enhance the effectiveness of promising nonprofits serving America's disadvantaged youth. With a focus on highquality programming, grantees participate in a structured three-year program that helps them build the knowledge, infrastructure, and practices they need to become data-driven learning organizations. EMCF believes that supporting organizations to use data will strengthen their programs and, ultimately, improve outcomes for youth.
The first national cohort completed PropelNext in 2015. To better understand the impact of the program, EMCF partnered with Harder+Company Community Research and Engage R+D to assess post-program progress, achievements, and challenges. The evaluation synthesized data from a multitude of sources and perspectives using mixed methods that included surveys, interviews, focus groups, site visits, and document review. The study unearthed promising evidence that alumni have embedded a learning culture and performance management practices deep into their organizational DNA. More than two years after completion, alumni organizations described their experience as transformational, with one CEO asserting, "You can't go back to what you were before."
While the initial focus of PropelNext was on data-informed program models, the work extended far beyond programming and has had profound implications for nearly every aspect of organizational performance. The practices learned during PropelNext were not "one and done" events but were part of a long-term journey to embed a culture of learning and continuous improvement across an organization. Two years after completing the program, the majority of organizations have sustained, deepened, and, in many cases, advanced performance-management capacities across a spectrum of areas. This executive summary and the full report highlight key results and insights about the challenges, facilitators, and nuances of building a learning organization.