Metrics to Evaluate Whole Family Work

Foundations at the board and staff level can utilize a range of tools and metrics to evaluate whole family focused investments. Importantly, metrics to evaluate whole family work are most effective when they span parent, child, and whole family outcomes. This can sometimes present significant challenges with grantees, who may be collecting data on parents or children, but not both.

Many funders have found it helpful to request comprehensive data from grantees, but to be flexible in the kinds of data that are collected. For example, a workforce program could ask for child development metrics from a child care center and utilize whatever metrics that partner regularly collects, which may differ across centers. Or a home visiting program could collect employment data based on what its partnering employment program, or housing program, regularly collects.

A set of principles identified by Ascend in their two-generation guide on evaluation and assessment include:

Defining Whole Family, Two-Generation Outcomes 

There are no “two-generation outcomes,” per se. Rather, there are outcomes that two-generation programs typically target across the child-focused, parent-focused, and family-focused spectrum. “Making Tomorrow Better Together” offers a preliminary list of these outcomes for field-wide discussion. Programs that provide services to just parents or children also often draw from this list, but they rarely integrate their services across generations or target family-focused outcomes, which are hard to obtain through a single-generation program model. 

Two-generation practitioners move from having an approach to having a program when they take the initiative – either alone or with partners – on developing a strong two-generation theory of change as well as internal and external evaluation mechanisms to better understand the drivers and potential levers for improving child and parent outcomes simultaneously. Once these conditions are set and implementation has begun, two-generation programs must then challenge their assumptions and ask themselves: Are our intentions to produce strong outcomes matched by real-life results? This requires two-generation programs to continuously improve by testing both their design and implementation strategies through an appropriate balance of innovation and evidence-based practice. In sum, two-generation programs produce the learning culture, technology, and data necessary to:

Following are resources to support the identification of child, parent, and family outcomes for organizations seeking to both support their own assessment as well as create grantmaking strategies that spur evaluations.

  1. Making Tomorrow Better Together
  2. Reinventing the Way We Measure Family Outcomes

Following are resources to support evaluating policy advocacy related to whole family work.

  1. Korwin Consulting, in partnership with the Women’s Funding Network, created an overview of strategies to evaluate public policy work.
  2. Korwin Consulting also compiled a set of resources related to policy advocacy evaluation.
  3. Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona has a policy dashboard to measure policy outcomes.