January 1, 2019
PropelNext is an intensive cohort-based, capacity-building program designed by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) to enhance the performance of promising nonprofits that serve America's disadvantaged youth. In partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Sobrato Family Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation, EMCF launched the second cohort in 2015 comprised of 14 nonprofits in Southern and Northern California. PropelNext stands out from other capacity-building initiatives with the depth and breadth of support it provides to help nonprofits develop performance management practices and cultivate data-driven decision making. The supports provided by the PropelNext team include customized coaching, peer learning sessions, small group coaching workshops, and an online learning community (OLC). Through the three-year initiative, grantees sharpen their program models, develop theories of change (TOCs), implement performance management systems, and cultivate cultures of learning and continuous improvement. With a commitment to learning, EMCF partnered with Engage R+D and Harder+Company Community Research to assess the context, development, and implementation of PropelNext, as well as generate timely insights to refine the model. The developmental evaluation also captures baseline information that can be used to assess the impact of this work over time. The evaluation synthesizes data from a multitude of sources and perspectives using mixed methods that include surveys, interviews, focus groups, site visits, meeting observations, and document review. Findings clearly demonstrate that PropelNext has provided a solid foundation for learning and growth and is catalyzing organizations to a new level of performance and sophistication. While grantees acknowledge the road ahead will likely be full of bumps and detours, they have acquired new knowledge, skills and capabilities to weather the ride. This executive summary, and the full report, highlight key results and insights about the challenges, facilitators, and nuances of building a learning organization.