Accountability and Program Evaluation at SAR

Over the past decade, issues of institutional accountability and program assessment have permeated higher education and the not-for-profit world, driven largely by heightened government scrutiny and increasing calls for accountability among philanthropies in the face of several notorious examples of failed oversight in the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. This has occurred in the context of decreased public funding for higher education, rapidly growing accountability requirements from philanthropic sources, and a maturing “Baby Boomer” population with considerable assets accompanied by a desire to maximize social impact. Commentators on the not-for-profit sector, both in print and in numerous blogs, debate how to measure social impact and guide social investing through “outcome-based grant-making” and “strategic philanthropy,” while Congress considers the efficacy of venerable legislation that regulates not-for-profit organizations.SAR Press Program ImpactSAR Press Program ImpactSAR Press Program Impact

In 2008, the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, NM, began to develop procedures for program evaluation, and in 2009, with support from the Dobkin Family Foundation, assembled the like-minded leadership of several other centers for advanced research to begin discussions of program assessment and institutional accountability, ranging from the sharing of best practices to the exploration of how to develop a common set of evaluation metrics. Subsequent funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation facilitated a follow-up workshop in 2010, as well as additional program evaluation work at SAR in 2011.

Adobe PDF Icon2011 SAR Evaluation Report (PDF, 3 MB)(choose the “Save As” option by right-clicking (PC) or control+clicking (MAC) on the link)In late 2011, SAR released a detailed report summarizing the efforts by SAR and the other centers to explore issues of accountability and assessment for independent, not-for-profit centers for advanced research. This report, available here, includes a history and discussion of accountability challenges, a summary of the workshops held in 2009 and 2010 and their outcomes, and a description of the specific assessment work of SAR from 2008 to 2011 on some of its programs—specifically, scholarly productivity of its permanent faculty, the impact of SAR Press publications, and the impact of SAR's advanced seminar program.

Program evaluation will continue each year, both for updating previous evaluations of SAR programs and initiating evaluations of new programs. Information will be made available here as it becomes available. For more information on SAR's accountability and evaluation initiatives, please contact multimedia services at multimedia[at]

Sponsored by Dobkin Family Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation