Social Innovation through Evaluation Science Dynamic Learning Approaches for Nonprofit Leaders Driving Social Change


  • Kathleen Doll Intention 2 Impact
  • Satlaj Dighe University of North Carolina-Wilmington
  • Trupti Sarode University of Pittsburgh
  • John LaVelle University of Minnesota–Twin Cities



program evaluation in nonprofits, developmental evaluation, evaluation capacity building


Program evaluation, as a learning process, offers promise for nonprofit leaders. Rather than conducting research on organizations, evaluators partner with organizational leaders, helping them, in real-time, understand their programs, policies, and systems; prioritize their informational needs; and generate credible and actionable knowledge to answer their questions. This article 1) outlines why evaluation may be a more responsive learning process for nonprofit leaders, in contrast to other research processes; 2) describes the field of program evaluation and its contributions to knowledge creation for nonprofits; 3) explains an evaluation approach, called developmental evaluation, that produces real-time, complexity-informed knowledge resources for nonprofit leaders; and 4) concludes by encouraging nonprofit leaders to make the most of processes, like developmental evaluation, by building their capacity to promote sustained organizational learning and knowledge creation that is conducted for them and by them as opposed to on them.