The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Retrospective Series

Since its very beginning, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has taken a strategic approach to grantmaking and evaluated the results of its philanthropic investments. Yet, both strategy and evaluation were limited to individual programs. As we evolved in how we worked and became a more strategic philanthropy, we began bundling groups of programs that were meant to work together synergistically to leverage big changes that could not be accomplished by individual programs. And so, we developed the RWJF Retrospective Series—evaluations of the impact of an entire body of work, conducted by an independent evaluator. Recently, the Foundation released the first in its retrospective series—Improving Care at the End of Life: How the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Its Grantees Built the Fieldwhere evaluators took a look at RWJF’s investment in end-of-life care. Between 1991 and 2005, the Foundation invested over $170 million to improve care at the end of life.

In this retrospective evaluation, conducted by Patti Patrizi and colleagues, RWJF’s work in end-of-life care is examined, including its strategy and impact on the field through an assessment of nearly 340 grants; interviews with 70 current and former staff, grantees, and end-of-life leaders; and reviews of documents, websites and journals. Second in the retrospective series—The Tobacco Campaigns of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and its Collaborators, 1991–2010—is a body of work that was the result of the Foundation's commitment to create tobacco-cessation programs. Between 1991 and 2009, the Foundation invested almost $700 million in efforts to prevent tobacco uptake, especially by children, and to help addicted users quit. To aid in these efforts, RWJF created various programs such as SmokeLess States®: National Tobacco Policy Initiative; Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; Addressing Tobacco in Managed Care (now called Addressing Tobacco in Health Care); Smoke-Free Families: Innovations to Stop Smoking During and Beyond Pregnancy; and Substance Abuse Policy Research. This report shines a light on RWJF's work in tobacco and the many collaborators who joined forces to reduce tobacco use in the United States through cessation programs, policy change and public education. This assessment was conducted by the Center for Public Program Evaluation and led by its President, George Grob.

In the third installment in the RWJF Retrospective Series, Chronic Care Programs, the authors, Jonathan Showstack and Nicole Wolfe, provide a broad overview of RWJF’s chronic illness-related programs—their outcomes and their impact on the systems of care for persons with chronic illnesses and disabilities. This retrospective also discusses the impact of the 1991 priority on RWJF’s grantmaking. The authors of this Retrospective found that many of the programs had important positive effects on the care and services that  people with chronic conditions received, and several of the programs greatly influenced the field of chronic illness care. Few of the programs, however, produced outcomes beyond the boundaries of the particular program or lasting fundamental changes in the health care system.


NEW Release!

The Foundation's most recent addition to the RWJF Retrospective Series, Two Decades of Investment in Substance-Use Prevention and Treatment, takes a look at its 20-year investment to reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs in the U.S.—an investment of nearly $700 million.

This retrospective analysis, conducted by FSG  from May 2011 to March 2012, includes interviews with internal and external stakeholders, extensive reviews of secondary documents and data sources, in-depth, expert assessment of five major programs, surveys of internal and external advisers, and citation analysis. Read this report to learn more about RWJF’s investment, what was achieved through its efforts, and the strengths and challenges of the Foundation’s approach.