What we’re learning about partnering for progress

As one feedback mechanism, last year we asked partner organizations to share their thoughts with us through a third-party, anonymized survey informed by The Partnering Initiative's Fit for Partnering Framework, in the spirit of encouraging honest feedback. Twelve months later, we went back to partners to playback their feedback and share progress on actions taken in response.

In June 2023, some of the BHP Foundation team met with partner organizations delivering projects in Chile.

Collaborative relationships based on openness, equity, mutual benefit and integrity are key to delivering the transformation needed to solve unprecedented social and environmental challenges at speed and scale. With more than 40 partner organizations, examining how we work with others is critical for BHP Foundation; so much so, we articulate many of our ambitions within our organization’s charter called Our Commitment.  

As one feedback mechanism, last year we asked partner organizations to share their thoughts with us through a third-party, anonymized survey informed by The Partnering Initiative's Fit for Partnering Framework, in the spirit of encouraging honest feedback. Twelve months later, we went back to partners to playback their feedback and share progress on actions taken in response.  

Here’s a summary of what partner organizations told us and how we’ve responded to date. 

What partner organizations told us

Leadership and strategy: understanding why organizations partner with BHP Foundation 

Partner organizations: 

  • described the Foundation as collaborative, innovative and impactful.  

  • 92 per cent agreed the Foundation lives up to its commitment statement, especially in supporting partner organizations to achieve their aspirations.  

  • said that funding for organizational strengthening was especially valued by smaller organizations to enhance their impact and make important gains towards long-term sustainability. 

  • told us they were not clear on the Foundation’s overall strategy and would appreciate greater insight into how their work can enable collective action.  

Partnering culture: understanding trust in the partnership model 

Partner organizations: 

  • indicated processes, particularly in the design phase, require a lot of time, and could be improved to reduce the burden on partner organizations.  

  • appreciated the Foundation’s efforts to build relationships with them that foster high levels of comfort and trust.   

  • 86 per cent indicated that they feel comfortable sharing not only positive developments but also challenges experienced during project implementation to allow for agile and adaptive changes in their work.    

Skills and support: understanding the effectiveness of resources  

Partner organizations: 

  • acknowledged the Foundation invests a good amount of time and non-financial resources including problem solving and troubleshooting, strategy and project planning and risk planning and resilience.  

  • suggested the Foundation could do more to improve connection and collaboration between partner organizations and to foster connections with other organizations outside of their networks including with relevant government agencies.

Systems and processes: understanding whether procedures are fit for partnering  

Partner organizations: 

  • most noted the grant selection and contracting processes are lengthy, complicated and resource intensive.  

  • shared that across all programs, communication frequency, transparency and quality of information provided by the Foundation is generally high.

What we changed 

Three priorities for immediate attention emerged in the areas identified for improvement. We sought to answer:  

  1. How decisions are made about strategy, key performance indicators and funding; 

  2. When evaluation and performance measurement come into the project cycle and what is done with the information; 

  3. Can administration and reporting requirements be made leaner and less burdensome? 

To address these questions, we: 

Matured our governance and decision-making model 

Since BHP Foundation was established in 2014, BHP Foundation Board had been highly engaged in strategy development, program identification and project approvals – an approach consistent with many start-up organizations. To provide greater leadership and strategy support to partner organizations, our governance structure needed to evolve to reflect our growing maturity as an organization. 

Our new governance approach focuses on generative insight to support organizational performance. This model, based on this frame, supports delegation of greater decision-making to management and maximizes the strategic insights of Board members, while still managing fiduciary accountabilities. It enables the Foundation to clarify accountabilities and where appropriate, streamline decision-making.

We also sought to learn from what other Foundations do and looked to existing research and consulted experts in philanthropic governance to set us on a journey towards aligning to industry standards and the latest philanthropic governance.  

Implemented a new approach to Measurement, Learning and Evaluation

The Foundation’s original performance measurement and evaluation was based on a Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting Framework. This framework reinforced a culture of compliance-led reporting and wasn’t cohesive across the various measurement and evaluation points within the organization. This resulted in burdensome processes and an information analysis gap.   

Over the last two years, we introduced dedicated capacity in this area, and with this added expertise, the Foundation launched a new Measurement, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) Policy focused on enabling adaptive management and bringing coherence between program and project level MLE.  

This helped simplify expectations on partner organizations, focusing effort around a core set of measures (framed around five dimensions of impact), and integrating learning questions to help focus project evaluations on learning, rather than compliance. 

Reduced project administration expectations on partner organizations

The Foundation has streamlined the minimum requirements in grant contracts, is working to reduce “Legal jargon” in contracts, has reduced the frequency of written reporting requirements, and has refocused reporting on learning (as opposed to activity completion) to improve flexibility.  

The Foundation’s past project administration approach was more conservative. Reporting, for example, was required on a quarterly basis and was comprehensively focused on activities, resulting in long lists of Key Performance Indicators.

Measuring progress

Earlier this year, the Foundation held a series of webinars to share these changes with partner organizations. It was an important step to demonstrate the value of feedback and to check whether progress was being made in the right direction. 

A short pulse survey helped gauge immediate feedback (see graph above) and continued to identify improvement opportunities including change management when introducing new processes; further clarity around roles and responsibilities, and further opportunity to improve the project design process.


We are grateful to all the partner organizations who contributed to this feedback and continue to provide insights on how we can partner for progress. We are invested in the use of feedback as an essential lever in meeting the needs of our partner organizations and in how we enable impact that endures.  

We hope by sharing what we’ve learned so far and how we responded can help other philanthropies maximize their impact and take up this valuable exercise to encourage more equitable and mutually reinforcing relationships.

Read related


What we are learning

Learn more about BHP Foundation’s approach to measurement, learning and evaluation (MLE), driven by the belief that strategic learning through investment in measuring, learning from, and evaluating is fundamental to maximize impact.

Learn more