“Context matters” is a phrase often used by funders, grantees, and evaluators when they discuss their approach to community and system change initiatives. These initiatives are intended to change their contexts and, at the same time, are also highly impacted by the contexts in which they operate. However, in practice, context is rarely systematically considered and is usually addressed in retrospect as something that should be addressed in the future.
This learning brief examines when and how context matters and draws on data collected for the macro-evaluation of The Colorado Trust’s Community Partnerships for Health Equity strategy (2014–2022). It provides a set of considerations to help philanthropy prepare to do community and systems change work.