by: Richard Margoluis

Measurement and evaluation are core to how the Moore Foundation operates. Guided by our founders’ belief in a scientific approach to philanthropy, the concept of measurability and adaptive management is baked into all we do.

Data to inform decisions

Most of the foundation’s grantmaking is organized into what we refer to as initiatives. These substantial, time-bound efforts are designed to achieve a significant and durable outcome through complementary grants.

Since individual grants are designed to contribute to higher-order objectives, we design monitoring, evaluation and learning systems that allow us to monitor work at the strategy level and track progress across multiple grantees. This allows our grantmaking teams to confirm whether they are on track to achieve collective outcomes and provides them with the data necessary to adjust as necessary. These systems also enable continuous learning to ensure teams remain agile and responsive to changing conditions.

Marine Conservation Initiative

Our commitment to marine conservation extends back to 2005. In 2017, the initiative was reframed to focus on a newly defined initiative outcome:Protection and sustainable management of high-priority North American geographies are significantly advanced, and key conditions are put in place to cement and scale up gains across North America.”

Grantmaking in pursuit of this outcome focused on three interrelated strategies – habitat protection, science-based fisheries management, and enabling conditions that support both.

External evaluation

Toward the end of every initiative budget authorization, we engage external evaluators to assess the work and provide insight on progress. Recently, we completed an evaluation of our Marine Conservation Initiative.

The evaluation included three lines of inquiry, including the initiative’s: 1) approach (how well was the initiative conceptualized and designed?); 2) deployment (how well was the initiative executed and managed?); and 3) results (were the expected results achieved)? These lines were informed by three distinct processes with accompanying products:

  1. Monitoring system assessment. An independent process audit carried out by Dr. Sheila O’Connor assessed the utility and rigor of the measurement, evaluation, and learning system. This assessment found that the data system designed and used by staff was a robust tool for decision making and adaptive management. The assessment also confirmed that it was a sound and credible data source for the evaluation.
  2. Expert panel report. A nine-member independent panel, chaired by Fran Ulmer, conducted a high-level examination of the initiative’s design, execution, results, and options for the future. The panel concluded that the initiative made remarkable progress and noted that the “long term, place-based approach is key to its success, distinguishing Moore from philanthropic efforts by other organizations.”
  3. External independent evaluation. Dr. David Secord augmented the prior two assessments with an extensive review of internal and external documents, approximately 60 interviews with diverse external key informants and foundation staff, and evidence drawn from the measurement, evaluation and learning system.

Dr. Secord’s final report integrates his analysis, the monitoring system assessment, and the expert panel findings.

Evaluation findings

The evaluation confirmed the Marine Conservation Initiative grant partners and staff are achieving great outcomes. According to the evaluation, the Marine Conservation Initiative’s support will have accomplished the following:

  1. Habitat Protection: The goal of protecting marine waters in 20 percent of the U.S. and Canadian Arctic and 30 percent of British Columbia will likely be surpassed in 2024 or at the latest by the end of 2025.
  1. Science-Based Fisheries Management: The intended improvements in science-based fisheries management will be partially achieved by the end of 2024. This goal includes securing 80 percent of fisheries operating within science-based sustainable catch limits  in the Canadian Arctic and British Columbia along with incorporating climate science and ecosystem considerations in fisheries science, management, and decision-making in the U.S. Arctic.
  1. Enabling Conditions: Effective enabling conditions, including legal and regulatory frameworks, will be largely achieved in 2024. These conditions ensure durable habitat protection and sustainable fisheries in the U.S. and Canada.

The combined efforts of initiative grantees contributed to several additional meaningful achievements, including:

  • Pathways to large-scale conservation designations in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Pathways to large-scale conservation designations in British Columbia.
  • Expanded capacity for conservation in British Columbia and the North American Arctic.
  • Buffered conservation against threats across international boundaries.
  • Contributed to federal reforms of Canadian fisheries management.
  • Contributed to improving climate and ecosystem considerations in fisheries in Alaska.
  • Mitigated erosion of fisheries standards, protected areas, and conservation laws in the U.S.
  • Expanded constituencies for marine conservation in all geographies.

The full impact of the work of the Marine Conservation Initiative grant partners is ongoing. Their work has laid the foundation for future efforts, including deepening strategic partnerships for place-based Indigenous-led conservation, regional or national systems change in ocean governance, and extending influence to include additional, strategic entry points for durable marine conservation.

Richard Margoluis is the chief Adaptive Management and Evaluation officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


Banner collage includes images of: Aerial view of Kunsoot, British Columbia; Grizzly bear fishing for salmon; walrus and pup floating on Arctic ice, cc Sarah Sonsthagen/USGS; Komatiks (sleds) crossing the cracked ice near ice floe edge in Baffin Island, Nunavut. 


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Marine Conservation Initiative Evaluation - December 2023


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