What We're Thinking

Supporting and Measuring a Robust Reproductive Health Ecosystem in Mississippi and Louisiana

In 2014, the Packard Foundation’s Population and Reproductive Health (PRH) program began providing funding in Louisiana and Mississippi—two southern states where the regulatory environment has hampered reproductive health, rights, and reproductive justice efforts, and where there are also inspiring, passionate communities of advocates and organizations working toward reproductive health, rights, and justice.

In the Packard Foundation’s theory of change, one of our assumptions is that thoughtfully investing in these two states to strengthen this ecosystem of leaders and organizations is foundational to achieving our program goals of improving both access to reproductive services and the regulatory environment that will support them. The strategy included a set of investments to strengthen the leaders and organizations that will be critical to the success of the work.

To help us understand our progress toward our field strengthening goal, PRH partnered with Learning for Action and the Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness team to develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation plan to assess the overall strength of the network of organizations and advocates. In this plan, an organizational assessment is paired with interviews and other observational measurement to gain a full and evolving sense of the network of stakeholders. In additional to annual phone interviews, a critical tool in this evaluation is the bi-annual organizational assessment survey conducted across all grantee partners. This tool is focused on two key areas of measurement:

  1. Self-reflection—Grantee perceptions of organizational strengths and weaknesses in relationship to key organizational capacities.
  2. Landscape reflection—Grantee perceptions of the overall strength of their state’s reproductive health, rights, and justice ecosystem.

As a California-based family foundation, located thousands of miles from the partners and communities we support, we hoped that this process would allow us to gain insights from our grantee partners that would help us shape the best leadership, organizational development, and network development opportunities. Another hope was that this approach would allow us to measure and understand the growth of this network over the course of our seven-year strategy.

We’ve now completed three years of data collection and analysis, and the results are proving helpful in showing how we can improve our support for our partners in Louisiana and Mississippi. Here are the highlights:

  1. Grantee organizations and the field of reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations are getting stronger. Grantee assessments show that the organizations are stronger than they were two years ago. Organizations identified growth in areas targeted for development in previous years, and shared that they have been intentional in their efforts for organizational development.
  2. Grantees feel that the network of leaders and organizations working on reproductive health, rights, and justice has improved significantly.
  3. The evaluation results have proven helpful as we consider capacity building and organizational effectiveness. While results have not been consistent enough for us to rely on this evaluation alone to elevate priorities, it has served as an entry point for conversation with grantees and informs additional probing on growth opportunities.

As we continue to move forward with this evaluation and our strategy, we are eager to deepen our understanding of the value of funding with a field lens as well as the role organizational effectiveness plays in achieving programmatic goals.

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA- DECEMBER 01: The Louisiana State University Street Squad shares information about safe sex practices with fellow students. The Street Squad is a peer-to-peer education group conducting marketing and research for the LSU student health center, in partnership with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has been a trusted source of expert, affordable reproductive health care and sexual health information in Louisiana for more than 30 years. (Photo by Nina Robinson/The Verbatim Agency/Getty Images)


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