Innovation Network started—like most ideas that stick—with a clear need.
In the early 1990s, evaluation practices amongst nonprofit organizations were not what they are today. Although the growing desire for greater accountability in the nonprofit field was getting stronger, there was a general lack of expertise and understanding around how to evaluate the work of mission-oriented organizations, as well as insufficient funding to support learning and evaluation. While private companies traditionally measure success through their bottom line—monetary profits—nonprofit organizations with socially oriented missions have a much more difficult task. Measuring impact in terms of social outcomes, cultural shifts, and increased equity has never been easy or straightforward.
In 1992, founder Allison Fine had a vision to teach nonprofits how to better plan and evaluate their efforts. Allison noticed that many nonprofit organizations did not have the capacity to evaluate their work. Often, organizations started to think about evaluation as an add-on item at the very end of a project. In its early years, Innovation Network partnered with a variety of nonprofits around the Washington, DC area to build the knowledge, capacity, and skills needed to advance evaluation practice.
Over the past decade, Innovation Network has broadened its reach to partner with nonprofits and foundations interested in social change. Our focus has gradually shifted from evaluating smaller scale programs to evaluating harder-to-measure concepts such as advocacy and social movements. As our expertise has grown, we continue to evolve, partnering with organizations to tackle projects focused on advocacy, health and health equity, and social justice. We are also committed to advancing the field of evaluation through our research, practice, and sharing of our learnings with the broader evaluation and nonprofit community.