S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Legacy Collection

In December 2020, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation concluded operations. Founded in 1957, the Foundation was committed to building a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California. In 2009, the Foundation decided to invest all of its assets, or spend down, by 2020 in order to spur significant progress on the challenging issues facing the state in education and environment. This collection features knowledge produced by the Foundation and its partners during its final decade of work. Read concluding reflections from the Foundation's president and learn more about its grantmaking.

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Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 3: 2018-2020

December 14, 2020

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date. In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. Chapter 3 of the series reports on the Foundation's final years and carries perspectives on major programs and operations across the spend down.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story
Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 2: 2014-2017

May 1, 2020

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date.In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. Chapter 2 of the series describes the evolution of the Foundation's major program investments and initiatives during the central spend-down years.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story
Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 1: 2009-2013

November 1, 2019

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date.In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. Chapter 1 of the series is a chronicle of the activation of spend-down practices, including the "strategic refresh" that would guide Foundation program investments through its conclusion.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story
Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Prologue: 1957-2008

November 1, 2019

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date.In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. This series prologue summarizes the evolution and work of the Foundation across five decades of grantmaking, culminating with the decision to spend down all assets.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation National Character Initiative Retrospective Final Report

December 22, 2020

Starting in 2019, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) partnered with the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, to capture grantees' experiences with the National Character Initiative. Specifically, through interviews and surveys, AIR aimed to describe grantees' experiences implementing the grants and participating in the supports that were provided by the Foundation and expert consultants. Findings from the retrospective may be useful to other foundations as they decide how to fund and support youth-serving organizations.

Character

Resilience in 2020

December 9, 2020

In fall 2018, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, along with fellow funders and the authors of this report, set out to study what it takes for nonprofits to survive and even thrive amid disruption, and to better understand how grantmakers can help grow this resilience. "Resilience" was defined as a nonprofit's ability to respond effectively to change and adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances while staying true to mission. Ultimately, seven characteristics emerged as critical to organizational resilience, presented in the resulting report, Resilience at Work. None of the stressors profiled in the original study reached the magnitude of the multiple and interconnected crises that defined 2020 – the pandemic, the uprising for Black lives and racial justice, the economic downturn, the crescendo of natural disasters. The authors wanted to know: What does it take for nonprofits to be resilient in the face of the profound and far-reaching change and uncertainty that no organization was immune from in 2020? Can nonprofits bounce back better equipped to weather future crises? To find out, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation commissioned this update.

Organizational Resiliency

What Education Leaders Can Learn About NGSS Implementation: Highlights From the Early Implementers Initiative

November 1, 2020

From 2014 through 2020, eight diverse school districts and two charter management organizations ran a substantial experiment with ways of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in elementary and middle grades, called the California K - 8 NGSS Early Implementers Initiative. The Initiative certainly illustrated that a big financial investment can produce powerful change. However, even districts facing resource challenges may benefit from the lessons that were learned and the strategies that were developed by the Initiative.An external evaluation team has previously released a series of reports on what can be learned from the efforts of the Initiative districts. All reports are intended to be helpful to administrators at the school and district levels, education policymakers, and people charged with designing and/or delivering science professional learning. After briefly describing how the NGSS call for big shifts in science teaching and learning, this highlights report shares high-level, major learnings from the evaluation, distilled into only a couple dozen pages of main narrative. The report describes NGSS instruction as a powerful lever for equitable learning, explains how the Initiative made this kind of instruction happen, and describes the importance of the Initiative's ambitious professional learning for administrators.

STEM - Science

Advancing Global Evaluation Practice to Meet the World’s Challenges: A Call to Action and Reflection

October 20, 2020

Working together, foundations and evaluators can contribute to global transformation necessary to address the world's most pressing problems.Funders and evaluators based primarily in the US and Canada have been collaborating on shared priorities through the Funder and Evaluator Affinity Network (FEAN) since 2017. The goal of FEAN is to change the relationship between funders and evaluators from a transactional one to a partnership, shifting the field of philanthropic evaluation to become fairer, more equitable, and more effective. In 2019, the conversation expanded to consider issues of interest to FEAN members working in the international arena.The vision inspiring this paper is one in which North American foundations and evaluators can make significant contributions to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as allies with people across the globe whose lives are most closely impacted by pressing challenges including climate change, migration, pandemics, growing authoritarianism, disparities and instabilities, and the depletion of critical resources.The recommendations outlined in this paper are a starting point, an invitation to both reflection and action. We explore how foundations and evaluators can nurture and grow a robust, inclusive ecosystem of what we are calling evaluation for global transformation (EGT). Such an ecosystem is necessary to co-create the paths by which funders and evaluators can catalyze innovative thinking and undertake coordinated action with others in support of global transformation.The working paper takes a critical look at the current state of EGT and what it will take to position evaluation to advance effective, equitable and sustainable global transformation efforts. It begins with defining global transformation and its importance, describing the ways in which global development is evolving, and the growing role that philanthropy is playing within this arena.Next, it lays out an analysis of the current state of evaluation and resulting recommendations, building from conversations that took place among members of the Funder and Evaluator Affinity Network during 2019.

Evaluation Practice

Better Together: How Evaluator Collaborations Can Strengthen Philanthropy and Increase Collective Knowledge

October 20, 2020

Partnerships between evaluation firms have many benefits for both funders and evaluators. The benefits can include increased quality of evaluation and collaboration, greater equity for all stakeholders, and stronger field capacity for learning at scale.Over the last six months, we assembled a work team of seven funders and 11 evaluators to explore how more formal partnerships between evaluation firms can increase collective knowledge within the field and ultimately strengthen philanthropy.Our group identified key rationales for establishing such partnerships as well as emergent best practices in creating and maintaining successful partnerships, analyzed barriers that impede funders and evaluators from pursuing partnerships more frequently, and articulated some field-level strategy to counteract those barriers. In this brief, we share some of our most valuable insights, and a working draft of a best practice guide and decision tool that could, if further developed, aid the field in establishing stronger collaborations between evaluation firms.

Evaluation Practice

Evaluation Is So White: Systemic Wrongs Reinforced by Common Practices and How to Start Righting Them

October 20, 2020

What will it take for evaluators of color to flourish in the evaluation ecosystem? Our Action Team set out to answer this question, reviewing research and exchanging perspectives across our members, which included evaluators of color and white evaluators, representing foundations, evaluation firms, and pathway programs.The recent civil uprisings and the disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color have thrown into stark relief the need for more equitable systems throughout American society. As philanthropy strives to address that need, it is imperative to make evaluation a tool "for and of equity" as called for by the Equitable Evaluation Initiative. Funders, evaluation firms, and pathway programs each have an important role to play in cultivating an ecosystem that is more inclusive of diverse perspectives and lived expertise.While our work is situated in a broader landscape and perspective, this document focuses on systemic challenges evaluators of color face in their educational and career pathways. We draw attention to common practices in the field of philanthropy that have negative consequences for evaluators of color and provide early-stage ideas on mitigating strategies and processes. The ideas are organized around three key stakeholders:FundersFoundation staff in evaluation and learning roles as well as program staff who work directly with evaluators.Evaluation FirmsSmall to mid-size evaluation firms are the focus here, although ideas may also apply to larger academic institutions and research centers.Pathway ProgramsProfessional development programs which support evaluators of color through mentorship, internship, job placement, contracting, and networking.We recognize and state plainly that the challenges and barriers evaluators of color face are systemic and deeply rooted in our culture and society. They are products of a longstanding history of discriminatory practices, policies, and narratives. We share ideas and recommendations that may begin to mitigate these challenges, while honoring the fact that creating a truly equitable field goes well beyond the solutions we offer here. We seek to identify immediate and actionable steps that can be taken now while recognizing there is broader work to be done, and conversations to be had, to dismantle white-dominant culture and practices within philanthropy and evaluation.

Evaluation Practice

Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Making Evaluations More Useful for Foundation Strategy and Practice

October 20, 2020

In 2019, the Evaluation Roundtable for the first time broke with historic practice and invited evaluation consultants to join a gathering that had previously been exclusive to foundation evaluation staff. As part of the meeting, the facilitators asked all participants to write down what they most wished the other would do differently. The number one request of foundation evaluation staff? Ask harder questions. The number one request by external evaluators? Let us ask harder questions.If we both want the same things (harder questions addressed) for the same reason (equitable progress toward the ambitious, inspirational missions that foundations aspire to), why aren't we doing better?Clearly, good intentions are not good enough.This paper presents six cross-cutting areas for focus and change along with specific actions that can be taken by external evaluators and foundation evaluation staff to help accelerate the meaningful use of evaluation for foundation strategy and practice.

Evaluation Practice

Knowledge Sharing is a Mission Imperative: Why We Cannot Afford to Keep Evaluation Findings to Ourselves and How We Can Do Better

October 20, 2020

Improving how evaluation lessons are shared will require both foundation and evaluation professionals to develop new capacities and embed new norms and practices in the way they work. To help jumpstart the necessary shifts in that work, this document offers a set of reflection questions for funders and evaluators to consider together, at the start of every evaluation and learning engagement, to ensure that the knowledge built is shared. The dissemination planning tool that follows these questions can help move the conversation from reflection to action.

Evaluation Practice

About this collection:   Presidents reflections | Intellectual property