Call for proposals: Consultancy Learning Partner – to embed a new five-year grant-making strategy

Deadline for application: 30 September 2021

Location: Global

About Oak Foundation
Oak Foundation supports civil society as a pillar of democracy and justice, and nurtures innovation and visionary leadership within it. We value diversity both within Oak and among our partners; we seek to be inclusive, flexible, and engage with different points of view. We pursue social justice-based approaches, equity, and race justice, and strong partnerships with organisations we fund. We believe that the best grant-making reflects both careful due diligence and the willingness to take risks. We make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Oak has approximately 90 staff with most of them located in Geneva, London, and Chapel Hill (NC). 

About the Housing and Homelessness Programme
The Housing and Homelessness Programme is an established programme of Oak Foundation, which has run for around twenty years. With an annual budget of approximately USD 30 million, we make grants to organisations who share our commitment to reducing homelessness across the UK and the US.

Over the last 12 months, we have reviewed our grant-making portfolio, and built on its strengths and outcomes to develop a new strategy, which is currently in its final draft stages. We are getting ready to implement this strategy from 2022. Our grant-making strategy sits within the wider context of the structural causes of homelessness, which include poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Housing policy could increase housing opportunity for everyone, yet homelessness persists and the sector, including people experiencing the problem, often feel powerless to change systems.

Ultimately, we want to see more people prevented from losing their homes and fewer people experiencing persistent homelessness. This means challenging systems that cause homelessness and creating systems that enable housing opportunities for everyone. We want to support the sector in developing a strong narrative, shaped by people with experience of the problem and rooted in robust evidence, to persuade those in power to commit to and ensure secure and decent homes for everyone. 

Principles underpinning the strategy
Underpinning our strategy is a deep commitment to social justice, racial equity, and strengthening the voices of people with lived experience. The work we seek to fund will be evidence based with an understanding of the wider social, political, and economic context. It will also demonstrate a strong commitment to the experiences of people facing homelessness and the solutions they have identified. 

Priority themes and outcomes
Across our grant-making portfolio, we want to invest in efforts that contribute towards change at a systemic level. By this we mean supporting work that is tackling the root causes, and challenging practice and policy that prioritises short term wins instead of longer term change. We encourage collaboration and working with people with lived experience, and greater partnerships between organisations of different sizes.

We want to see the prevention of homelessness through upstreaming and create new opportunities for increasing access to housing. This can include: supporting individual people to break cycles of homelessness; developing strategies that lead to long term access to safe and secure homes; campaigning and policy advocacy to address existing problems, create innovations, and test new approaches; and building narratives that influence public debate and interest. We know that the gap between income and homes that are affordable is growing, and our focus is primarily on homes for people on the lowest income and least resources. 

Learning partner brief
We are now recruiting a learning partner who, in the first instance, will work with us until December 2022. We want this partnership to support us as we refine, implement, and adapt our five year grant-making strategy, and develop evaluation and learning opportunities and strategies as a team and with our grantee partners.

This is an ideal moment for us to recruit a learning partner, as we return to working in the London office and continue to build our team culture, sharing learning and challenging ourselves to build a highly ambitious grant-making portfolio. We have also grown the team; over the last 18 months, we have recruited three new members of the team, including a new programme director. As a family foundation, we work closely with our lead Trustee, as well as others in the foundation, including the President and the leads for monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) and capacity building.

As well as working closely as a team, we want to continue to strengthen our learning relationships with our grantee partners. Our funding is usually long-term and multi-year, and we believe it is important to work with our partners to maximise impact for the sector and for people with experience of homelessness. 

Aims and focus
1. Embed a learning culture
We have drafted a set of learning questions, which are listed below. We want to refine these further, alongside finalising our five-year strategy, and agree a process of continued reflection. This will help us to further deepen our relationship with our grantee partners, and build a pipeline of projects to fund.

2. Develop a framework to measure impact and systemic change
We want to develop a framework and a plan for how we will build the evidence base to inform our learning. This includes planning how we will engage our grantee partners without over burdening them. It is important that grantee partners are only collating evidence that is relevant to them and their communities. This means better embedding evaluation and learning into the grant application process, so it can be fully costed into the grant. We want to consider a range of data gathering methods, including storytelling.

We already ask our grantee partners to submit annual progress reports and end of grant reports, and we are making changes to our application/reporting process across the global foundation. We expect to continue to use these methods, but want to ensure that we are better able to understand impact and communicate this to our Trustees and our external stakeholders. 

3. One-year review of our grant-making strategy
Our 2021 grant-making has been closely aligned to our emerging strategy. 2022 will be the first year of implementing our new strategy, and a chance to further develop our plans. We want to learn from the strategy we implemented in 2022 to plan for the next four years. This means an analysis of recent grantee reports to help us to develop a structure for communication.

Our learning questions 

  • What are we learning about what it takes for strong organisations, empowered communities and leaders with lived experience to bring about change? How do we go deeper? 
  • How is progress towards better housing outcomes developing when organisations led by people from black and minoritised backgrounds and/or with lived experiences become more visible and influential? 
  • When are we helping, and when is our funding model getting in the way of progress towards systemic change? 
  • When is knowledge and data most helpful in supporting the sector and communities to achieve a tangible change? 
  • Does looking at homelessness through the lens of race equity lead to better outcomes for everyone experiencing housing disadvantage? 
  • How is our learning approach helping us develop a pipeline of organisations to fund? 
  • How is our learning helping us build strategies ourselves for engaging with people with lived experience?

Our key stakeholders
As part of our work with a learning partner, we want to engage with:

  1. Internal stakeholders The HHP team, our lead Trustee and President, and the Oak leads for MEL and for capacity building. There may be times when we want to engage with staff from other programmes.
  2. Grantee partners We want to support our grantee partners to effectively share of knowledge and impact, and to help them build their confidence and ability to adapt a MEL strategy for understanding systems change impact. We want to explore ways of doing this without expecting our grantees to collate data that does not benefit them.
  3. Wider sector partners We want to explore ways in which to communicate our work and learning to support wider sector efforts to bring about long lasting change in the field of homelessness. 

Scope
We are open to exploring different ways in which this brief can be met. We do, however, have some key milestones: 

  1. Strategic away days: 23/24 November 2021. These are scheduled to kick start the programme team’s MEL plans. Our lead trustee and President will be fully participating. We would expect our learning partner to facilitate these days physically in London, and work with the programme director in the lead up to prepare. This may include one-to-one sessions with the programme team in advance of the away days. 
  2. Team away days: 2 days in March 2022 (dates to be confirmed). This will be a chance to review progress and to continue planning the grants cycle. 
  3. Strategic away days: November 2022 (dates to be confirmed). The focus will be a review of the year and planning the next four years of the strategy cycle. 
  4. An agreed framework for our monitoring, evaluation, and learning with regards to our grant-making. This will include engagement with our MEL lead in Geneva to ensure a fit with the global changes to Oak’s grants management system scheduled in 2022. 
  5. A plan and accompanying guidelines that help us engage in MEL and communicate our intentions with our grantee partners.
  6. An analysis of a range of our grantee progress reports and end of grant reports to help us understand what has been achieved, and to be able to communicate this to our stakeholders. This could include some individual interviews with our grantees. 
  7. Grantee workshops to support some of our grantees with their MEL priorities. The scale and scope of these are negotiable. 

What we are looking for
We are looking for a partner who is committed to the Programme’s strategy. We are not necessarily looking for someone with expertise in housing and homelessness, but do want our learning partner to share our passion for social justice, racial justice, and driving social change. Our learning partner will have a demonstrable track record of skills and experience in: 

  • Taking a systems change approach to learning and evaluation, and developing nonlinear frameworks that embrace the complexities of achieving change, ideally within other trusts and foundations, or within wider sector organisations. 
  • Working with multiple forms of evidence gathering, including storytelling approaches. 
  • Being able to work with complexity and making this accessible to teams and wider stakeholders. 
  • Working with organisations who are committed to elevating the voices of people with lived experience. 
  • Designing and facilitating interviews, surveys, and focus groups and analysing qualitative and quantitative data to develop meaningful insights and recommendations. 
  • Working with trustees as well as programme staff, and recognising the importance of ensuring all key stakeholders are on board. Some experience of engaging with a family foundation would be an asset. 
  • Supporting organisations to improve their own understanding and approaches to evaluation. 
  • Reporting critical feedback and facilitating honest, open, and healthy conversations where there may be differences of opinion. 

Your proposal
Your proposal should be limited to no more than 6 sides of A4 and should include the following:

  1. Your skills and experience relevant to this work, including examples of other work
  2. Your proposed methodology, including the rationale for suggesting specific methods
  3. Details of other members of your team (CVs may be included in an Appendix), with a clear indication of the person accountable for the quality of the work
  4. Budget analysis, including an understanding of your daily rate and the number of days you anticipate

Application timeline
13 September: Circulate tender
30 September: Deadline to apply
4 October: Interviews

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this brief in advanceof submitting an application, pleasecontact programme director Raji Hunjan at raji.hunjan@oakfnd.org to arrange a time to speak.

If you are ready to submit, please send your application to katy.castle@oakfnd.org

We look forward to hearing from you!

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