The Learning Conference 2017
Through a mix of session formats, speakers from inside and outside our sector, structured networking, and informal discussions with peers, participants explored ways to design and implement evaluation and learning approaches that generate stronger information, decisions and performance.
Start: Wednesday, May 31, 7:30 AM Central
End: Thursday, June 1, 2:00 PM Central
Hosted in partnership with Forefront
The Learning Conference 2017 offered a range of perspective and ideas on learning for continuous improvement. As grantmakers, we want to know if our efforts are making a difference and how we can improve our work over time. Often, we are not getting the most from evaluation, because it is in isolation from grantees, communities and peers, and too few of us are sharing what we’re learning, both in our successes and failures.
Over the course of two days in Chicago, participants experienced a mix of session formats, speakers from inside and outside our sector, structured networking and informal discussions with peers that explored ways to design and implement evaluation and learning approaches that generate stronger information, decisions and performance.
The conference agenda featured a mix of session formats, structured networking and time for informal conversations with peers. Highlights included:
- Pre-Conference Workshops: Two-hour workshops provided a deeper dive into topics related to developing systemic theories of change and embedding collaborative learning into daily work practices.
- Breakout Sessions: 12 breakout sessions (lasting 75 minutes), designed by members of the GEO community, covered topics such as putting a learning culture into practice, using beneficiary and grantee feedback to improve our processes, learning alongside peers, community members, and grantees, incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into our evaluation practices, and building nonprofit capacity for learning and evaluation.
- Opening Session: This interactive session kicked off the conference to help participants better understand their unique learning challenges and explore ways to make the most of their conference experience.
- Plenary Sessions: Participants heard from grantmaker and nonprofit speakers on topics related to the connection of learning and equity as well as how we can enact a learning culture within our organizations.
- Short Talks: View videos from five energizing, succinct, 20-minute keynote style sessions offering fresh perspectives from thought leaders within and outside philanthropy.
- Site Visits: Explored the vibrancy of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors of Chicago.
- Fail Fest: Embraced learning from failure and affirmed the value of taking risks by hearing four grantmakers share candid stories of their favorite failures and hard lessons learned.
Scroll down to see conference session titles, descriptions and resources listed in chronological order.
More than 330 grantmakers joined us in Chicago to embrace a learning for improvement mindset.
Assessing our learning challenges
This interactive session kicked off the conference by helping participants better understand their unique learning challenges and explore ways to make the most of their conference experience.View Opening Session resources here
Watch what happened
GEO recorded a number of the sessions from the Learning Conference 2017, ranging from Short Talks to full-length plenary sessions. Get a taste of the conference and, especially if you were a participant, consider sharing these videos with your colleagues. (*We are only sharing videos of speakers who granted permission)Check out all videos
Share Your Conference Ideas
Share your conference ideas and takeaways with your colleagues by hosting an informal lunch or discussion. Use and adapt this PowerPoint template to give a presentation on what most excited and inspired you from your time in Chicago!
Conference Planning Committee
- Meghan Barp (Chair), Greater Twin Cities United Way
- Allison Barmann, Bush Foundation
- Cheryl Chang, Sunlight Giving
- Nancy Csuti, The Colorado Trust
- Jon Goldberg, Surdna Foundation
- Luz Gomez, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
- Kim Ammann Howard, The James Irvine Foundation
- Dahnesh Medora, Meyer Memorial Trust
- Dawn Melchiorre, Forefront
- Destiny-Simone Ramjohn, Kaiser Permanente
- Liz Sak, The Cricket Island Foundation
- Maurice Samuels, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- Donata Secondo, Democracy Fund
- Rick Ybarra, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health
Conference Host Committee
- Greg DiDomenico (Chair), Community Memorial Foundation
- Heather Higgins Alderman, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation
- Gillian Darlow, Polk Bros. Foundation
- Nancy Fishman, Grand Victoria Foundation
- Michael Hennessy, The Coleman Foundation, Inc.
- Mae Hong, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
- Grace Hou, Woods Fund Chicago
- Peter Mich, McDougal Family Foundation
- Paul Miles, Wheat Ridge Ministries
- Cindy Moelis, The Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation
- Mary O'Donnell, The Retirement Research Foundation
- Marianne Philbin, Pierce Family Foundation
- Unmi Song, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
- Beth Swanson, The Joyce Foundation
- Jeff Ubois, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- Christy Uchida, The Brinson Foundation
- Eric Weinheimer, Forefront
Our Regional Partner
Forefront builds a vibrant social impact sector for all the people of Illinois. Forefront is the nation’s only statewide membership association that represents both grantmakers and nonprofits, as well as advisors, social entrepreneurs, impact investors and sector allies.Learn more about Forefront