Philanthropies can play a vital role in supporting the production and use of evidence and in fostering relationships among key stakeholders in four strategy areas.
Foster equitable, representative, and meaningful engagement among stakeholders
Too often research is conducted on, rather than with, schools and communities. Philanthropies should prioritize research ideas developed by a broad cross-section of researchers and other stakeholders and create opportunities for them to forge mutually beneficial partnerships. Engaging educators, families, students, and community members in evidence-related processes and decisions increases the likelihood that studies will meet their pressing needs. At the decision-making table, philanthropies should recognize power dynamics and approach conversations with humility and respect.
Break down systemic barriers that impede greater stakeholder engagement
There are many cultural, institutional, and methodological barriers that can discourage greater stakeholder participation in the production and use of research. Philanthropies should consider investing in innovative engagement approaches and participatory research infrastructures such as research-practice partnerships with diverse stakeholders, youth-led participatory action research, research training for non-researchers, communications training for scholars, and participatory grantmaking processes.
Share evidence broadly and foster robust dialogue around it
Foundation-funded research that has important implications for the education community and the public often remains inaccessible. Philanthropies should encourage grantees to share research findings broadly in easily understandable language and user-friendly formats (e.g., providing open source materials and tools), to be transparent with their research (e.g., sharing data sets), and to convey clear evidence-informed recommendations geared to specific audiences. Diverse stakeholders also need opportunities to dialogue with each other in order to interpret what research means for their local context, problems of practice, and future change efforts. Philanthropy can foster spaces for evidence-informed reflection, planning, and action.
Maintain a high priority focus on racial equity and inclusion
Foundations can help ensure that the needs and strengths of communities of color are reflected in the production and use of research evidence. They can support disaggregation of data, subgroup analyses, and studies focused on increasing equity. More complete and accurate evidence-informed answers can be generated about what works, under what conditions, and for which populations. Philanthropies should also critically examine their own organizational practices regarding equity and aim to support research teams that reflect the lived experiences of the communities that are the focus of the research.
Make the case for how evidence serves the public good
The value of research evidence is often overshadowed by political, ideological, and institutional pressures in education policy. The philanthropic community should step forward to promote greater public and private investments in research, and champion the role of research in maintaining a democracy with an informed and engaged citizenry.