ORS Impact News

The ORS Impact team has earned a global reputation for leadership, insight and innovation. We work collaboratively with our clients, bringing our distinctive expertise in planning, measurement and evaluation to their most vexing challenges.

MLE Lab Case Study: American Forest Foundation

Every year, ORS Impact engages organizational teams who are looking to improve and align their measurement, learning, and evaluation (MLE) skills and thinking through our MLE Lab. Over six months, teams participate in a unique consultative experience that blends in-person retreat time, guidance from expert coaches, opportunities for peer learning, and a curated toolkit of techniques and frameworks.

As we look forward to our 5th MLE Lab, we decided to check back in with participants to learn about their experience. This is what we heard.


We checked back in with the team from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) of the 2017 MLE Lab Cohort a year after the program concluded to learn how MLE Lab had helped their team and their organization. Based in Washington, DC, the American Forest Foundation works with family forest owners, partners, and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect our nation’s heritage. They conduct place-based conservation efforts and engage in direct advocacy with lawmakers.

Like many teams that participate in MLE Lab, the four-member AFF team included people at different levels and across several departments within the organization, including senior program staff, a program associate, and the vice president for finance and administration.

Polishing the Toolkit

Over the two-and-a-half-day in-person retreat, the AFF team developed a deeper understanding of MLE and the skills needed to create a learning culture at their organization, such as crafting learning questions, frameworks to deepen their understanding of AFF’s strategy, and facilitation techniques to create effective group learning spaces. AFF's Caroline Kuebler, senior manager for Woodland Owner Engagement, reports that before attending MLE Lab, she felt like MLE was “this space unknown.” Now, she says, the tools from MLE Lab “have been really helpful in thinking about how I do my work better.”

The in-person retreat also provided an opportunity for participants to see what engaging learning spaces look like and how to facilitate meetings with intentionality. “I’ve been to trainings where you are just sitting there,” Caroline says. “I loved how you all broke it up, where sometimes we were small groups and sometimes, we were a large group; sometimes presentations; sometimes we were standing up. The workshop was dynamic and thoughtful about how people learn differently and what techniques are appropriate to get what you want out of the group,” Caroline says. “I got real value out of that and continue to use it in my day-to-day work.”

Intentionality around creating engaging spaces that are ripe for learning was a key takeaway from the MLE Lab for the AFF team, and has now become a tenet of their work, whether they are running internal meetings or facilitating large external sessions.

Embedding Lessons Throughout

The team also brought back to the organization an enthusiasm for creating more opportunities to embed learning into their work. Despite abundant enthusiasm, a common roadblock that can occur is a misalignment of expectations across an organization about how to move forward. MLE Lab’s coaching mechanism can facilitate this process. With the help of their MLE coach, ORS Impact CEO Sarah Stachowiak, AFF navigated their roadblock to strengthen their learning practices. “Sarah was really helpful in facilitating a conversation that allowed us to get on the same page,” Caroline says.

Since then, the learning orientation has begun to spread throughout AFF. Melissa Moeller, a recent addition to the AFF team who did not attend MLE Lab, can speak to the impact MLE Lab had on the organization. “The tools they are beginning to share with other staff are things that everyone can use in their day-to-day life. It has been really exciting to incorporate what they learned into my work, and to see the new ways they present themselves and talk about MLE with other staff. The MLE concepts and tools they received through the Lab are approachable and useful to everyone in our organization.”

The AFF team’s experience illustrates how all the elements of MLE Lab – the in-person retreat, curated toolkit, and ongoing coaching sessions – work in tandem to provide lasting benefits to teams and organizations. The 2019 MLE Lab kicks off September 24-26 in Atlanta. To learn more about how your team can participate, visit the MLE Lab page.

Questions about MLE Lab? Send us an email at MLELab@orsimpact.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Write A Comment

Post A Comment