The Hewlett Foundation commissioned Management Systems International to conduct a formative evaluation of the Early Learning Innovation Fund, which began in 2011 as part of the Quality Education in Developing Countries (QEDC) Initiative, a partnership between the Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This report is part of a series of evaluations of the QEDC Initiative. The Early Learning Innovation Fund seeks to: promote promising approaches to improve children’s learning; strengthen the capacity of organizations implementing those approaches; strengthen those organizations’ networks and ownership; and grow 20 percent of implementing organizations into significant players in the education sector. The Fund directly supported two regranting organizations, Firelight Foundation and TrustAfrica, which in turn supported 12 community based organizations in Tanzania, and 16 early learning and childhood development organizations in four countries (Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, and Mali), respectively.
The evaluation, which began at the end of 2014, offers a mid-term assessment of the extent to which the Fund has achieved its intended outcomes, as well as the factors that have limited or enabled its achievements. It provides the Hewlett Foundation and other funders interested in supporting intermediary grantmakers, early learning innovations, and scaling those innovations insight into best practices in these areas, and is also intended to inform planning for Phase II of the Fund. The evaluators analyzed the support the intermediary regranting organizations provided to the organizations they supported with grants from the Fund, with a specific focus on monitoring and evaluation.
This final evaluation report contains recommendations in four key areas: allowing adequate time for both the regrantors and ultimate grantees to achieve realistic project implementation; focusing explicitly on regrantors’ capacity-building strategies in the initial call for proposals and establishing standardized institutional assessment tools that will permit monitoring institutional change over time; requiring specific strategies from regrantors for scaling up innovations, with reference to national-level stakeholders in the work such as ministries of education; and clearly communicating expectations of regrantors regarding monitoring and evaluation.