Bess Rothenberg

Bess Rothenberg

Senior Director of Strategy and Learning, Ford Foundation

Bess Rothenberg leads the Ford Foundation’s office of Strategy and Learning. She works closely with all ten global offices to strengthen Ford’s capacity as a learning institution and ensure that learning and strategy are deeply embedded in all of its work.

Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2016, Bess served as deputy director of research and evaluation at Wellspring Advisors. In that role, she led strategic planning for international and US-based human rights work. Earlier, Bess was senior program officer for Africa at the International Women’s Health Coalition, and associate director of grants at American Jewish World Service. She has also served as assistant professor of applied sociology and African studies at Clemson University, and as associate director with Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Human Rights.

Bess earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Virginia. She was a Fulbright doctoral fellow at Humboldt University in Berlin, and earned her B.A. in sociology from Boston University.

Evaluating Social Change


Funders and donors seek to measure their impact so they can know more precisely whether and how they’re making a difference. And yet the answers are often elusive, at best. Does our pursuit of impact, and precise impact metrics, sometimes paradoxically impede impact? Perhaps a different set of questions is needed? This interactive session will explore the complex dynamics of social change and how they intersect with funders’ learning and evaluation efforts.

Breakout session