When Joseph N. Pew Jr. advised, “Tell the truth and trust the people,” he was responding to a question about the traits of good government.
His counsel, however, is just as relevant for Pew’s Planning and Evaluation unit because our role is to contribute an objective and candid perspective to strengthen the institution’s planning and ultimately to provide an independent view on the effectiveness of its work.
For Planning and Evaluation, telling the truth means calling it as we see it, no matter how popular or unpopular our assessments may be. In doing so, we trust, and are gratified, that our clients within the institution—Pew’s board, president and program as well as project leadership—respect our analyses and use them to inform their decisions and improve the effectiveness of their portfolios.
We provide this objective voice for the institution across three functions: planning, evaluation and knowledge sharing.
Planning—the process of identifying and setting goals, objectives, strategies and actions to achieve social or policy ends—is an important foundation of Pew’s results-based culture. Our department’s planning role serves to strengthen institutional and programmatic decision making and support the design and implementation of effective program strategies and initiatives. Our knowledge about what has, and has not, worked well for Pew, based on almost two decades of evaluations and first-hand observation, is a vital asset.
Over this past year, Planning and Evaluation worked with our program colleagues on more than 50 planning engagements, from reviewing Pew’s approach to wilderness protection in the United States to assessing which states were ripe for reform of their public-safety policies. Program staff recognize the value of our unit’s institutional knowledge, objective perspective and planning skills, and we all share a commitment to achieving meaningful results.
If planning provides the shape and direction for Pew’s mission, then evaluation provides it with a reality check. At its core, Pew’s commitment to evaluation stems from its desire to address some of today’s most troubling problems and understand whether its efforts are making a difference. Evaluation provides the organization with high-quality, independent and objective information about Pew’s return on its investment.
In carrying out its function, evaluation helps guide strategic thinking about the direction of programs and projects, including decisions to continue, expand or withdraw from specific lines of work. During the last 12 months, we worked on seven assessments, including a major review of Pew’s investments in protecting the oceans off the American coast that informed the continuing efforts of this important endeavor.
Evaluation also offers Pew a source of empirical learning, creating over time a body of lessons that help Pew become a stronger organization. We recognize that the power of knowledge comes not just from the act of creating it, but also from its distribution and application. Planning and Evaluation strives to ensure that Pew staff have access to the best information available when designing, implementing and managing their projects, whether the insights are grounded in lessons emerging through evaluation or program experience, or whether they are acquired from the knowledge generated by our partners and peers in the field. We are committed to making this intellectual capital broadly available throughout the organization.
Planning and Evaluation also runs an internal professional- development program, known as Pew University, which has become another valuable way to advance the organization’s learning agenda. In the fall 2009 semester, for example, Pew University offered 30 unique sessions, which ranged from developing program strategy, to using research tools on the Internet, to applying technology to engage remotely with colleagues and partners.
In 2009, we also oversaw the orientation of new staff at Pew, providing them with the essential background needed to become productive contributors to the organization.
Finally, our Research Services group supported staff’s access to a range of external and internal databases—from news feeds to results of the latest academic research—while responding to more than 500 requests for customized research support.
Going forward, we are exploring how Pew can use innovative technology to better connect its increasingly distributed workforce and promote more effective knowledge sharing and problem solving among staff in disparate departments.
The Pew Charitable Trusts has become a larger and more complex place in the past decade, with a growing body of work operated and managed by a staff of internal experts and a large network of external partners. Planning and Evaluation has a strong tradition of informing and advancing Pew’s work, and we are dedicated to increasing the value we bring to the organization by becoming a locus for ongoing learning and program improvement.
At the same time, we will remain a source of independent perspective on the effectiveness of Pew’s work that the board, president and program leadership can rely upon, because Planning and Evaluation’s mission is fundamentally aligned with Mr. Pew’s own lifelong commitment to truth-telling.
Lester W. Baxter
Director, Planning and Evaluation
Read more about Pew's work in Pew Prospectus 2010 (PDF).