Program Assessment

AssessmentMeasuring the impact of any foundation grant tends to be challenging for a host of real-world reasons. For the Fellows program, one major impediment was pointed out by the Program Coordinator: “There is no proven method to test entrepreneurship [education].”9

The Coleman Foundation, an experienced grantmaker, recognized other difficulties early on. Said Berardi, “It’s tough to come up with outcomes. I think you have to be somewhat flexible in that programs are going to be different and they will look different, but you have to allow people the flexibility because there are a lot of ways to get to the end you seek.”

Berardi added, “Another lesson learned: give up that you’re going to be able to measure success in the way you might hope. When we first started, we thought in terms of how many businesses did the kids start? Unless you’re doing longitudinal studies, you can’t get to that.” One final note: “If you’re going to consider funding a program like this, you have to be in it for the long haul, because a lot of the entrepreneurship education being provided might not come to fruition for a number of years.”

The Coleman Foundation mainly evaluated the Fellows Program’s implementation via the Program Coordinator’s periodic updates on accomplishments and challenges among participating schools, biannual grant reports from Project Directors, and occasional site visits by program officers. These measures allowed the Foundation to know which grantees’ work was the strongest, and to be sure that grantees followed through on their commitments. They were also were conduits for lessons that could be incorporated into the Program.

Project Directors agreed that the Foundation set clear expectations and that its informationgathering processes effectively enabled it to exercise accountability with the universities and colleges that participated, rewarding those that followed through, and eliminating those that did not.

Though it kept its investment in evaluation light, in 2017 the Coleman Foundation contracted with the Center for Research and Service, Illinois Institute of Technology, for one formal study. The assessment focused on evaluating impact in relationship to three of the Coleman Foundation’s impact strategies:

  1. improving academic and communitybased entrepreneurship curricula to build core skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment
  2. increasing local practitioner engagement such as coaching, mentoring, and teaching, and
  3. supporting community-based experiential learning opportunities, and supporting entrepreneurship networks

Researchers relied on stakeholder group meetings and interviews to develop the evaluation framework and survey protocols. Surveys were completed by 88 Fellows (a response rate of almost 25%) and 288 students. The evaluation showed:

  • Fellows indicated that the Program had had positive impacts on entrepreneurship education and their teaching. Most indicated that they involved alumni and local entrepreneurs to some degree in their teaching, and believed that creating cohorts of faculty across programs would foster engagement. “Most Fellows see value in the Program,” said researchers, “affirming that it has benefitted them as academics, raised their visibility on their campus, and helped them identify new opportunities within their discipline.”
  • Almost 70 percent of respondent students in non-business majors reported that Coleman courses increased their desire to start businesses. Some had positive experiences learning from other entrepreneurs and were interested in experiential learning activities that engage with the community.

9Roberts, J. (2013) Infusing Entrepreneurship within Non- Business Disciplines: Preparing Artists and Others for Self- Employment and Entrepreneurship, in Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts Volume 1, Issue 2 http://artivate.org pp. 53 -63

Program Assessment

AssessmentMeasuring the impact of any foundation grant tends to be challenging for a host of real-world reasons. For the Fellows program, one major impediment was pointed out by the Program Coordinator: “There is no proven method to test entrepreneurship [education].”9

The Coleman Foundation, an experienced grantmaker, recognized other difficulties early on. Said Berardi, “It’s tough to come up with outcomes. I think you have to be somewhat flexible in that programs are going to be different and they will look different, but you have to allow people the flexibility because there are a lot of ways to get to the end you seek.”

Berardi added, “Another lesson learned: give up that you’re going to be able to measure success in the way you might hope. When we first started, we thought in terms of how many businesses did the kids start? Unless you’re doing longitudinal studies, you can’t get to that.” One final note: “If you’re going to consider funding a program like this, you have to be in it for the long haul, because a lot of the entrepreneurship education being provided might not come to fruition for a number of years.”

The Coleman Foundation mainly evaluated the Fellows Program’s implementation via the Program Coordinator’s periodic updates on accomplishments and challenges among participating schools, biannual grant reports from Project Directors, and occasional site visits by program officers. These measures allowed the Foundation to know which grantees’ work was the strongest, and to be sure that grantees followed through on their commitments. They were also were conduits for lessons that could be incorporated into the Program.

Project Directors agreed that the Foundation set clear expectations and that its informationgathering processes effectively enabled it to exercise accountability with the universities and colleges that participated, rewarding those that followed through, and eliminating those that did not.

Though it kept its investment in evaluation light, in 2017 the Coleman Foundation contracted with the Center for Research and Service, Illinois Institute of Technology, for one formal study. The assessment focused on evaluating impact in relationship to three of the Coleman Foundation’s impact strategies:

  1. improving academic and communitybased entrepreneurship curricula to build core skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment
  2. increasing local practitioner engagement such as coaching, mentoring, and teaching, and
  3. supporting community-based experiential learning opportunities, and supporting entrepreneurship networks

Researchers relied on stakeholder group meetings and interviews to develop the evaluation framework and survey protocols. Surveys were completed by 88 Fellows (a response rate of almost 25%) and 288 students. The evaluation showed:

  • Fellows indicated that the Program had had positive impacts on entrepreneurship education and their teaching. Most indicated that they involved alumni and local entrepreneurs to some degree in their teaching, and believed that creating cohorts of faculty across programs would foster engagement. “Most Fellows see value in the Program,” said researchers, “affirming that it has benefitted them as academics, raised their visibility on their campus, and helped them identify new opportunities within their discipline.”
  • Almost 70 percent of respondent students in non-business majors reported that Coleman courses increased their desire to start businesses. Some had positive experiences learning from other entrepreneurs and were interested in experiential learning activities that engage with the community.

9Roberts, J. (2013) Infusing Entrepreneurship within Non- Business Disciplines: Preparing Artists and Others for Self- Employment and Entrepreneurship, in Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts Volume 1, Issue 2 http://artivate.org pp. 53 -63

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