As we turn the page on 2018 and look to 2019 and beyond, I want to take a moment to reflect on where our Foundation has been, where it’s going, and what we hope to accomplish through our work.
Given that you’re reading this, you already know that we recently launched a new website, which reflects an updated visual identity and brand narrative that aligns to how we see our work. Our original website, which launched in 2014, no longer reflected the breadth of work we support or allowed us to celebrate our grantees in a way that way that lifted up their work and success.
Our goal for the new website was to make it grantee-centric, both through imagery and storytelling. We believe that our impact is best communicated through the organizations and researchers we support, so we designed the website to elevate our partners and the positive outcomes they achieve for children across the U.S. Through the design, we also wanted to humanize our data-centric approach to grantmaking. While we strive to emphasize the importance of data, measurement, and evaluation for impact and learning, we should never forget that data is most powerful when it leads to informed decision-making on behalf of our grantees and their beneficiaries. That is why on the new website, you will find data and numbers combined with stories about who the work is meant to help and serve and what impact we are achieving.
In the process of modernizing our visual identity, which included colors, images, fonts, etc., we also took the opportunity to streamline our brand narrative and logo. Our updated mission statement, which was edited in partnership with our Trustees, became the following: To open doors for every child in the U.S. by measurably enhancing education both inside and outside the classroom.
What’s unique and or different about this updated version of the mission statement?
- Our emphasis on opening doors for every child: we believe doors open for children not only when they have access to opportunities, but when they have the ability to achieve at their fullest potential; as such, we are committed to supporting work that improves not only access, but also outcomes
- Our emphasis on measurability: we care about knowing that what we’re doing is helping children do better, and we rely on data to inform both learning and improvement
- Our emphasis on all children in the U.S.: while we view equity as critical, we look for improvement across the entire learning and needs spectrum, as we believe our education system could be better for all children
- Our focus on learning both inside and outside the classroom: we believe the entire day is an opportunity for learning, which means it’s not enough to only support in-school initiatives
Data are most powerful when they lead to informed decision-making on behalf of our grantees and their beneficiaries.
In addition to updating our mission, we also clarified our organizational values. At Overdeck Family Foundation we look for grantees that align to our values, with a demonstrated commitment to measurable impact, communities, and collaboration.
- Think and Act with Rigor: We invest for real-world impact, funding both early stage and established initiatives that are proven to make a difference in the lives of children. Some grantees that highlight this are:
- Khan Academy: using data and technology to help millions of children at a low cost
- I-LABS: helping parents support language development in infants by creating easy-to-implement parent coaching models based on cutting-edge laboratory brain imaging
- Opportunity Insights: using data to discover and promote insights that drive national conversations and lead to policy change
- Connect Genuinely: We support organizations that respond to local needs and contexts, commit to a culture of learning and improvement, and incorporate community voice. Some grantees that highlight this are:
- ParentCorps: incorporating family voice throughout all aspects of intervention and evaluation to create a program that connects both school and home settings for pre-K children in NYC
- DonorsChoose: providing impactful and popular out-of-school STEM experiences by working with teachers to find out what they most need in classrooms
- Valor/Compass: running an SEL curriculum that raises student and teacher voices while achieving academic results that invert the achievement gap typically seen with economically disadvantaged students
- Learn Better, Together: We believe collaborative learning is key to success. Some grantees and partnerships that best highlight this are:
- Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture: partnering high-performing teachers with their colleagues to enable all educators to produce exceptional learning gains in students
- STEM Funders Network: establishing 100 STEM Learning Ecosystems across the U.S. by 2020 through a partnership involving 23 national and local STEM funders
- EdFirst’s Family Math: leading an advocacy collaboration with Heising-Simons and Gates that works alongside researchers, practitioners, and families to incorporate math into family time in order to bridge later achievement gaps
The last part of this exercise was clarifying the Foundation’s investment strategy. While doing this exercise did not fundamentally change how we operate, we thought it was important in order to create internal and external alignment. Our simplified strategy, which borrows on some great thinking from Thomas Kane, is as follows: We take a two-pronged approach to investing: helping early stage initiatives develop and validate their evidence base and scaling evidence-based projects. What this means in real life is that we fund projects across the develop, validate, and scale continuum. While the blend of investments along the continuum may vary by portfolio, we do believe it’s important for each portfolio to support both early stage and later stage initiatives using a shared framework.
Lastly, the process of updating our brand made us realize how important communications and storytelling is, both for us as a Foundation and for our grantees. We believe that, as a Foundation, we have an incredible platform from which to communicate and share the work of our grantees. Our hope is that doing so will lead to greater awareness of the powerful work we support, which will then translate to action (and hopefully more funding) that will allow our grantees to have more impact at scale.
As such, we plan to use both this platform and others to tell stories on behalf of both our Foundation and our grantees that combine both the head and the heart. We know that is critical to breaking down barriers, and hopefully creating a world in which all children have the opportunity to unlock their potential.
So here’s to partnering, learning, and creating change in 2019. We invite you to come along for the journey.
-Anu Malipatil, Vice President, Education