The first is that the social sciences offer powerful frameworks, methods, and tools for institutional and programmatic assessments. The SSRC brings together social science concepts, methods for data collection and analysis, and forms of data—in combination with contextual knowledge—to examine the institution, program, or intervention against its intended impact, determine and judge its efficacy, and create strategies to ensure success within the relevant service, advocacy, policy, or academic arena. Such an approach seeks a holistic understanding of how the intervention under review is functioning within its environment and how it can be improved so that design and implementation align most clearly with goals and intended short-, medium-, and long-term impacts.
The second is that continual organizational improvement is critical to success over the long term and depends on the adoption of a strong learning culture. This includes creating learning systems that use assessment data to develop a strong feedback loop for strategic learning by program staff, grantees, or other stakeholders to make evidence-based decisions and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the interventions. Our approach to assessment is both retrospective and prospective as we are strong proponents of continuous strategic learning rather than simple after-the-fact evaluation.
The SSRC has worked with a variety of institutions either as a strategic partner to collect and analyze data informed by social science frameworks, or as a learning partner to help create the culture and systems whereby the institutions can utilize these frameworks themselves.