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How to Use the APPT

An APPT assessment might be part of a larger learning journey for foundation participants about power shifting, or it might be a standalone activity. The assessment can be done in one longer meeting, or in a multi-step process with a kickoff meeting and individual reflections before another meeting. Carefully consider the timing; some recommend using this assessment as part of a larger strategic or organizational change initiative.

1. Identify a lead or facilitator for the assessment.

That person should coordinate the internal process and team, determine the process for the assessment exercise, identify roles, schedule meetings for participants, and answer questions as they emerge. This person can facilitate team meetings too, or bring in an external facilitator. This exercise does not require a team; it can also be done by one individual, without a team.

2. Consider how your foundation is structured and which functional areas of this tool are relevant.

Then identify who works in those areas and invite some to take part. This tool will provide the best information if a diverse group of people – at senior and junior levels, including those in decision-making roles in each functional area – participate in this learning activity.

3. Hold a meeting where the lead will introduce the purpose and goal of APPT and explain the process.

Before beginning the assessment, ask participants, “Who is our community?” The foundation’s community can be defined in many ways: it may be the group of people you are trying to impact at your foundation through grant funding, or it may be the grantees, or another group. The community is a central focus of the tool, and it’s good for all participants to be on the same page about who the community is. Keep in mind that any community is not a monolith. Other key stakeholders include those in governance, leadership, and staff roles; grantees; and grant applicants. Another question to ask the group at this stage is “Who has decision-making power in our foundation?” followed by “How do we know?” to stimulate conversation.

4. Review the participation spectrum for each relevant functional area.

Once you have identified your community, ask participants to review the participation spectrum in each relevant functional area, especially in their area of practice and expertise. Each person should individually review their printout or online version of APPT and identify the level on the spectrum that most resonates with current internal practice for each set of indicators. Consider some of the follow-up questions included in each area.

5. Discuss and compare results with a facilitator.

After all assessment team members have come to their findings individually, a small group with expertise in that functional area can discuss and compare results. Alternatively, the whole group can come together to discuss. Ensure there is a facilitator for the meeting; the facilitator should help the group set norms and agreements and consider power dynamics in the room. As people share their individual assessments, use these questions:

• What aligns to our current practice? Why did I choose the level I did; what evidence do I have?
• Which questions at the end of each area inspired my thinking?
• Do others agree or disagree? Why?

How This Tool is Structured

We have organized the APPT in sections that align with the functional areas typically found in a foundation. Not all foundations include all of the functional areas we’ve outlined (e.g., private institutions do not typically engage in fundraising), and you can select the most relevant areas. For each functional area, there is a spectrum of practice in regard to participation of people with lived experience. This spectrum begins on the left side with “no or limited participation” and ends on the right side with “full participation.” In the middle are the categories “some participation” and “substantial participation.” The level of “full participation” may not be the most desirable, depending on the aim of the foundation and the desire of communities impacted by funding. We have settled on these four levels so that users avoid falling into a neutral middle and are forced to choose. We have used the following structure across functional areas:

No or limited participation:

Power rests wholly with the foundation. No community, grantee, or staff input is sought. All decision-making and critical roles are held by foundation governance and/or leadership.

Some participation:

Power rests largely with the foundation. Some community, grantee, or staff input is sought, but only leadership and governance make decisions. There are some staff with lived experience, though in junior roles.

Substantial participation:

Power is shared by the foundation. The community, grantees, and staff have regular interactions and communication; decision-making is shared between governance, leadership, and staff (many with lived experience) alongside grantee and community participation.

Full participation:

Power is devolved by the foundation. The foundation is fully led by a diversity of community members; governance and leadership play time-limited roles. The community leads decision-making and considers equity and power at all levels.

Within the functional areas are indicators that represent key practices to consider in your assessment of the area. Under these indicators are related questions to consider. Statements in response to each of these questions across the categories of participation summarize the types of practice we consider to be part of each category.

6. Discuss where participation can be increased.

Based on the team’s findings, discuss where – if anywhere – the assessment team would like to increase participation, and review the suggestions for resources in functional areas. Consider:

• Do we agree on where we would like to be? Why? Why not?
• Would increasing participation help us to align to our values?
• What do our grantees and community want us to do? How do we know?
• In areas where we agree to grow our commitment to participation, what steps should we take?
• What support do we need to get where we would like to be, including time, budget, leadership support, etc.?
• What are the power structures in place that need to be influenced?
• What timeframe should we set to get where we would like to be?

7. Decide when you’ll meet again to reconsider these conversations and how you’ll track progress.

Are there further steps you as individuals or as a group can take to advance your knowledge? Do you need to create an action plan? You can also invite members of your community and grantees to participate in the next assessment.

The APPT Self-Assessment

Select the Functional Areas below that apply to your organization to begin your self-assessment. When you click on the area, you will see a set of indicators and key questions. You will select a level of participation that aligns to your practice. 

Want a Printable Copy of the Entire Tool? 

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