Learning Together: Collaborative Inquiry among Grantmakers and Grantees

Many grantmakers champion the idea of using evaluation to improve grantee effectiveness or advance a field of practice. It's a worthy endeavor, but how can you make it happen in the real world? This guide explores an increasingly popular method called "collaborative inquiry." Grantmakers define the practice, consider potential benefits and grapple with common challenges. A mini-case study shows how collaborative inquiry was used to support growth in a new field. 

Highlights

  • Creating learning partnerships among various players
  • Using collaborative inquiry to strengthen a field of work
  • Addressing power imbalances and divergent learning interests
  • Balancing the ideal and the real 

This guide is part of a series on evaluation techniques, check out related content below for additional resources in this series. 

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    Additional Resources - Collaborative Inquiry

    Online Sources

    • The research page from the Web site of Leadership for a Changing World, a program that is employing collaborative inquiry as one of its research techniques. The research team, led by Sonia Ospina, is based at New York University.
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    Common Questions about Collaborative Inquiry

    How can a true learning partnership among peers be created when one of the partners distributes the funds and others receive them?

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    Why use Collaborative Inquiry?
    • Build networks of peer learning among institutions and leaders. One foundation used the approach as an organizing vehicle for developing relationships among grantee practitioners who worked in the same business but had never communicated with one another. “Some of them became close colleagues who could call each other for advice,” said the grantmaker.
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    What is Collaborative Inquiry?

    Collaborative inquiry creates learning partnerships among grantmakers, grantees, and consultant researchers or evaluators to build useful knowledge from practice. The approach draws from diverse disciplines, including participatory action research, organizational development, and adult learning theory.

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