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The Learning Conference 2011

June 6–7, 2011

Baltimore, MD

Short Talk — Philanthropy’s Albatross: Debunking Theories of Change

Monday, June 6, 2011 at 2:30 PM–2:55 PM EDT
Ionic Room (Third Floor)
Session description

Many foundations tout the importance of theories of change for effective grantmaking and require their grantees to include them in their grant proposals. In this session, Albert Ruesga will outline some of the conceptual and practical difficulties with theories of change. He will argue that requiring grantees to produce explicit theories of change beyond what they usually include in their grant proposals does little to improve the art or science of grantmaking.

Participant learning goals

• To clarify what theories of change are and are not
• To challenge commonly held assumptions that a theory of change is a required part of a sound strategy and necessary for evaluation

Intended learning level

Exploration — exploration of ideas you’ve probably heard before in a way that builds further knowledge and understanding


Albert Ruesga, Greater New Orleans Foundation
Web site

Speaker Biography

Albert Ruesga is president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Previously he served as vice president for programs and communications at the Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C. Ruesga was the founding director of New Ventures in Philanthropy. Prior to that, he was the donor resources manager for the Boston Foundation. He is the founding editor of the White Courtesy Telephone, a popular blog about nonprofits and philanthropy. He is on the GEO board of directors. Ruesga earned his Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Session Materials