A Broader Context: A Call to Change the Data-Driven Landscape

July 1, 2019

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


The Jewish Impact Genome (JIG) has established sector-wide outcomes for effective Jewish Engagement by providing the field with a data-collection tool that promotes, collects, and shares impact learning. Leveraging the methodology of the Chicago-based Impact Genome Project, our team has taken a grassroots approach, partnering with Jewish organizations of all sizes to account for the activities that foster Jewish engagement in North America.

The JIG team has studied the literature, interviewed practitioners, and beta-tested our work with agencies. As of June 2019, the JIG team has coded and incorporated more than 300 program evaluation and internal reporting documents into our Jewish Engagement impact analysis. Notwithstanding contextual limitations, evaluation literature has emerged as the very best source to understand the goals and processes of an intervention.

Researchers have used these and dozens of peer-reviewed articles to drill down and determine the major outcomes that are common across the field, as well as the strategies that agencies deploy to realize impact. In the end, the JIG has furnished a set of far-reaching outcomes in which all Jewish organizations can find themselves – proscriptive reductionism not included.

The outcomes are the core of the taxonomies – the “so what” of Jewish Engagement. In total, a genome is made up of four distinct taxonomies. Taken together, they compose the building blocks which can fully describe a given program or intervention:

  • Outcomes that programs in that social impact area are aiming to achieve.
  • Activities that programs may use to achieve one or more outcomes. 
  • Beneficiaries that programs commonly serve; including characteristics such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, religious-cultural characteristics, etc. 
  • Contexts relevant to how programs are commonly delivered; this includes characteristics of the immediate and larger environments (e.g., instructional setting, location, and program size).

The purpose of this work is to democratize impact learning and empower Jewish organizations to self-evaluate using standards and evidence-based tools. In short order, the JIG tool will help facilitate data-driven discussions around benchmarking so that stakeholders can identify the program designs that yield the greatest impact. Evaluators and the more sophisticated organizations which utilize their services will also be able to make use of the Jewish Impact Genome. By utilizing the JIG as a broader framework through which to compare data, evaluators can ensure that practitioners appropriately contextualize, analyze, and most importantly, utilize findings and recommendations.

Presently, the JIG team is assembling a national experiment. In partnership with conveners, funders, incubators, and practitioners, the JIG team plans to establish interconnected ecosystems – geographic polities which will put the JIG’s taxonomies and outcomes to the test.

By engaging with and cataloguing the full-range of Jewish engagement efforts in a given location, the JIG will refine the universality of its outcomes and empower entire communities to unite around a shared framework of understanding and improvement. Through this, communities will paint a more robust, outcome-driven picture of local Jewish life and facilitate an informed discussion around benchmarking, comparing “success” with peer organizations and outcome-aligned agencies. Finally, The Genome will build up the capacity of Jewish Engagement nonprofits – of all types and sizes – to collect, analyze, contextualize, and utilize insights gleaned from this work to improve program performance.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy


Updated: Jul. 11, 2019