Donna Stark

Donna Stark

Donna Stark—Vice President of Talent and Leadership at the Annie E. Casey Foundation—recently refocused the leadership-development lens on defining results, in a piece published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In this case, defining results means “stating clearly what success looks like” so that leaders can more easily collaborate their efforts around aspirational goals.  Doing so, Donna says, will allow organizations to get the best possible return on investment and ensure that the work they are doing fits into the bigger picture of large-scale social change.

Donna’s emphasis on results definition stems from the Results-Based Accountability™ framework for decision-making, which defines results as end conditions of well-being desired for children, families and communities. These results, like “a clean environment” or “children ready for school,” are common sense ideas stated in terms that taxpayers, funders, and voters can easily understand. According to Donna, a good leadership-development program “develops leaders who can clearly define and manage towards results.” Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “results-based leadership approach” represents their effort to create such leaders.  This approach brings together groups of leaders from different sectors, initiatives, or communities and guides them in choosing population-level results. For example, during a results-based leadership program leaders from the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis, a Promise Neighborhoods community of 30 partners and nine schools, chose to focus on the following result: “All students are proficient in core academic subjects.”

Donna also argues that delivering leadership-development programs that clearly define results will help leaders collaborate better and hold themselves accountable. This requires clarifying each partner’s contribution to population well-being through the use of data that answers the following questions: how much are we doing? how well are we doing it? and is anyone better off? “Seeing and analyzing the data helps groups of leaders define the path to a chosen result,” track progress, collectively measure success, make action commitments, and hold themselves accountable, says Donna.

Finally, Donna shares that The Accountability Pathway—a leadership development tool created by the Annie E. Casey foundation—“can help partners tackle difficult conversations about progress and help stalled work move ahead.” An informative video about The Accountability Pathway can be found below.

To learn more about Annie E. Casey Foundation’s results-based leadership approach, click here. To learn more about Northside Achievement Zone’s results-based initiatives, click here. To learn more about Results-Based Accountability, visit