Event Recap: Measuring Impact and the Role of Philanthropy and Public Policy

Share this content

February 10, 2023
Students, faculty, and guests pose together in front of an LBJ School sign.

Adjunct faculty Madge Vasquez (far left) and Becky Pastner (second from the right) stand with students and guest speakers at the event.


On Wednesday, February 8, UT faculty and staff, community members, and students from across campus joined for a conversation with three local nonprofit leaders on measuring impact, developing strategy, and the role of philanthropy in public policy. The event was a partnership with the LBJ course “From Charity to Solidarity: Reimagining the Social Sector.”

Speakers were from three of the most significant funder organizations in Austin and included:

Semonti Basu, PhD, Director of Measurement & Evaluation at Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, is responsible for conducting research and analysis to facilitate grant operations at the foundation. With a background in educational research and evaluation, Semonti has worked in the public education sector as a researcher, program evaluator and technical assistance facilitator.

Edward B. Burger, PhD, President & CEO of St. David's Foundation, took the helm of St. David’s Foundation in January 2020, where he oversees all the Foundation’s operations as well as leads its philanthropic endeavors aimed at improving the lives of individuals throughout Central Texas both today and tomorrow.

Mike Nellis, CEO of Austin Community Foundation, is responsible for leading the Foundation and increasing its role as a community resource through strategic partnerships, conversations and initiatives. Mike leverages resources and works collaboratively with a broad spectrum of stakeholders as a convener on issues and challenges facing Austin and the region.

Each of the leaders started out by sharing the process by which their organization develops and revisits strategic goals, which differs based on the organization’s geographic and issue focus. Furthermore, each of the leaders discussed their research and evaluation process, which differed based on the organizations’ grantee populations and intent of their intervention.

The leaders also shared sentiments regarding the role of philanthropy and public policy. From a community foundation perspective, Mike Nellis shared that philanthropy is ultimately looking for a partnership and good policy as it seeks to close gaps in the community. Ed Burger shared that his organization works to advocate in the community through research and education, and Semonti Basu remarked that philanthropies are often responsible for filling in implementation gaps. The event ended with an important conversation regarding the role of higher education and knowledge creation in community work, and the leaders charged the students and faculty present to consider the potential of relationship with community organizations.

News category:
Event Center Faculty