ORS Impact News

The ORS Impact team has earned a global reputation for leadership, insight and innovation. We work collaboratively with our clients, bringing our distinctive expertise in planning, measurement and evaluation to their most vexing challenges.

"MLE is Always in the Back of My Mind Now": ProInspire's Equity in the Center Team Tells Us About Their MLE Lab Experience

Every year, ORS Impact engages organizational teams who are looking to improve and align their measurement, learning, and evaluation (MLE) skills and thinking through our MLE Lab. Over six-months, teams participate in a unique consultative experience that blends in-person retreat time for organizational teams, guidance from expert coaches, opportunities for peer learning, and a curated toolkit of techniques and frameworks.

As we look forward to our 4th MLE Lab and near the end of our time with our 3rd MLE Lab cohort, we decided to check back in with participants to learn about their experience. This is what we heard.


Measuring the impact of ProInspire’s Equity in the Center (EiC) work is no easy task. With a full-time team of just two, EiC works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase race equity. It envisions a future where nonprofit and philanthropic organizations advance race equity internally while centering it in their work externally. EiC’s strategies focus on accelerating leaders, supporting organizations and influencing the social sector through curated convenings and resources designed to increase capacity to advance race equity work. In April, the team published Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, which outlines how nonprofit and philanthropic organizations shift culture toward race equity by leveraging seven operational and management levers. The Race Equity Cycle featured in the publication was developed through a series of convenings with 120+ advisors. As Director Kerrien Suarez told us, “Measuring what we do is hard; it is all qualitative.”

Kerrien and her colleague Andrew Plumley, Senior Program Manager at Equity in the Center, joined us for our third annual MLE Lab. Over six months, they attended a retreat with other organizational teams, received individualized coaching, and worked with ORS staff to develop their own Theory of Change and measurement system.

Implementing a measurement system was new for Andrew - “I didn’t really know the nuts and bolts of how to collect information and present it back to the team in a way that they would find useful.” Andrew ran into the challenge so many organizations face – without a measurement system that staff find useful, there was a lack of enthusiasm and desire to contribute to MLE. In addition, EiC needed to quantify its impact for foundation donors and utilized the MLE Lab to think through key indicators to track knowledge, resources, and connections gained during convenings.

Nine months after they began the MLE Lab, they now have a measurement system that provides a foundation for future learning and the skills needed to continue to improve that system. They also have seen a tangible shift in culture – “I think more than anything we’ve grown in the changing of attitudes towards measurement and our ability to use data – MLE is always in the back of my mind now.

How did EiC move from a non-existent to inspiring, participatory MLE system?

Andrew and Kerrien began their MLE Lab experience by attending the two-and-a-half-day in-person training. “The in-person training did a good job of providing staff with a core evaluation skillset, Kerrien told us. She appreciated how the retreat catered to adult learning styles, with exercises designed to get teams up and moving while they thought about their work in new and different ways. 

Kerrien particularly liked an activity on the last day where teams used markers, clay, and figurines in the development of their Theory of Change (TOC), a tool that articulates what you hope to accomplish with your work. “That was the most creative exercise I have ever done around the TOC. I thought it was exceptional. It took something that people consider onerous and boring and made it incredibly fun. It was an engaging, interactive way to apply the concepts in a fun activity. I had never seen anything like that before.”

Andrew expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn from peers. “I loved how the in-person provided the opportunity to hear the spectrum of how people are doing this work at their own organizations… You hear the content from ORS and then you hear the stories from people doing the work – that was super valuable.”

Like all MLE Lab participants, they received a resource binder chock full of frameworks, tips, tricks, and how-tos for undertaking the work, as well as a deck of over 30 facilitation exercise cards for easy reference. Both Andrew and Kerrien loved them – “I think your resources are some of the best things you do and the binder, I refer back to that often.”

After the retreat, they worked with Paula Rowland and Tracy Hillard, their MLE coaches, who provided thought partnership in the development of their Theory of Change and measurement systems. “The follow-up support you get is really critical,” Kerrien told us.

Moving forward, Equity in the Center will “be in a good position to know how to track our work.” The team gained more than the tangible outputs – they developed a deeper understanding of MLE concepts and increased their skills, resulting in personal growth. As Andrew said:

“My understanding of MLE has really shifted. It’s not just an Equity in the Center thing; it’s for me as well, for my career and my professional development.”

To learn more about the MLE Lab, please visit our webpage or reach out to us directly at MLELab@orsimpact.com.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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