Mt. Auburn provides a full range of Strategic Advising and Learning & Evaluation services to meet the needs of our clients, including leaders in philanthropy, government, nonprofit and mission-based organizations, and collaborative groups.

Strategic Advising

Whether for an individual organization, a collaborative, or a funder, Mt. Auburn contributes data and facilitates the learning processes to help set strategic direction.

Assessing Collaborative Community Models for Economic Mobility

Economic inequality in the United States is entrenched and pervasive, with the top 10% of families holding 76% of the country's wealth and the bottom 50% of families holding just 1%. In response, community actors and foundations across the country have urgently mobilized to close this gap, deploying a variety of approaches and methods. However, the economic mobility field remains largely understudied and under-evaluated, leaving broad questions about the breadth, depth, and impact of existing strategies unanswered. Mt. Auburn Associates, on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, undertook a research effort to better understand the landscape and make meaning from work underway to address economic mobility across the U.S. The specific focus was on learning from the multisite initiatives that support partnerships or collaboratives of stakeholders and employ crosscutting approaches beyond an individual program or issue area. Through a mixed methodology and grounded in interviews with expert practitioners, Mt. Auburn's analysis shines new light on gaps and opportunities within the economic mobility field and offers key findings and implications for the continuation of this work.

view the report (pdf)

Chief Officers of State Library Agencies

At the end of 2022, Mt. Auburn and our partner, Program and Policy Insights, wrapped up a two-year project supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in partnership with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies. The early stages of research included a literature review and the development of a theory of change. This report examines the role public libraries play in workforce and small business development. Our team visited ten libraries across the country, and the resulting case studies showcase interesting and exciting findings related to the crucial role libraries are playing in digital literacy and inclusion, the connectedness of libraries and traditional workforce and small business development actors, and the collaborative approach libraries are taking with other workforce and small business development actors. If you want the “cliff notes” version to learn about the important role libraries can play, check out the slides we presented at webinars this fall upon the release of the report.

Connecting Capital and Community

Pritzker Traubert Foundation and Lever for Change. In 2019, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation (PTF) launched the Chicago Prize, a philanthropic effort that awarded $10 million to a single initiative on the South or West Side of Chicago “to support physical development and revitalization that will strengthen civic infrastructure and catalyze economic opportunity, thus improving the well-being of residents.” PTF selected six finalists to receive a $100,000 planning grant to support and refine their proposed plan. Mt. Auburn Associates, in partnership with Diane Gordon, worked with PTF and the finalists to clarify their theory of change to connect their built environment projects to a long-term vision of neighborhood transformation. Mt. Auburn then worked with the teams to identify interim and longer-term indicators of progress and to consider the different uses as well roles and responsibilities related to collecting and using that information.

learn more about this project

Equality Can’t Wait

Funded by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates' investment and incubation company, with additional support from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Mt. Auburn and our team of consultants provided intense technical assistance to ten grantees, each working to increase gender equity among underserved racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic communities. The goal of our technical assistance was to expand grantees' capacity to articulate their program model, underlying theory of change, implementation plan, and measurement objectives to compete for an increased funding award. Our team developed detailed theory of change frameworks for the ten diverse organizations and helped build staff ability to translate the framework into a cohesive measurement and continuous learning model.

Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

In 2008, Mt. Auburn managed the formulation of a five-year strategic plan for this statewide economic development organization, which serves rural communities. As part of our work, we interviewed board and staff, facilitated staff and board retreats, conducted detailed business analyses of program areas, reviewed lending programs, analyzed opportunities in ecotourism and heritage tourism, and developed overall strategic principles, goals, and priorities. Almost 25 years later, Mt. Auburn once again worked with CEI's board and senior staff to facilitate the development of a new five-year strategic plan and associated metrics.

Learning and Evaluation

Mt. Auburn views evaluations as learning exercises and our clients as learning partners. Our goal is to help clients identify and assess anticipated program outcomes, determine the effectiveness of various program elements, and refine activities to better meet intended outcomes.

Pew Charitable Trusts' State Fiscal Health (SFH) project

Pew assembled a team, led by Mt. Auburn Associates, to evaluate the SFH projects' efforts to improve state fiscal health, including rainy day funds, local fiscal monitoring, and processes for evaluating tax incentives. The evaluation team used a combination of methods to assess and document Pew's cumulative progress toward SFH project objectives, including primary data sources, mainly interviews, combined with document review and web-based research. The evaluation team conducted interviews with key stakeholders to ensure representation of unique perspectives. The team's final report examines Pew's impact in ten states as well as broader influence of the national conversation around state fiscal health issues.

Medi-Cal CBO Partnership Development Network evaluation

Mt. Auburn collaborated with the California Health Care Foundation and HealthBegins in the second phase of building the capacity of community-based organizations to partner with Managed Care Plans within the CalAIM process. As part of the evaluation process, Mt. Auburn observed meetings, conducted interviews, administered surveys, facilitated sessions to extract meaning, and led an "after-action" review. At the project midpoint, Mt. Auburn developed a brief presentation highlighting initial insights and facilitated a team discussion regarding implications for the rest of the initiative. In 2023, Mt. Auburn submitted our final report.

Brookings Institution Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation

The Brookings Institution retained Mt. Auburn in March 2015 to conduct a summative evaluation of the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation (PSMI). PSMI was a five-year, national effort that engaged groups of economic development stakeholders in regional strategic planning projects and state-level policy work in order to promote the adoption of a new, more trade- and innovation-oriented approach to economic development. The primary purpose of our evaluation was to analyze the PSMI's influence on economic development-related policies, practices, perspectives, and relationships in the 19 states and metropolitan regions where the Brookings team has been most active.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) initiative

Mt. Auburn is the evaluator for RWJF's BHEC initiative, a multi-year effort for cross-sector collaboratives to address social determinants of health through changes to the built environment and the community investment system in four New Jersey communities. This effort aims to shift the discourse, practices, and decision-making behaviors of local and state governments and leverage their support and financing to advance more comprehensive health and equity-focused development, particularly as communities recover from the health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.