Working with Assumptions and Biases

  I recently participated in an American Evaluation Association (AEA) webinar called “Working with Assumptions to Unravel the Tangle of Complexity, Values, Cultural Responsiveness”. Its content resonated deeply with me because I regularly include an Assumptions Exercise in planning processes I lead with clients and have found it to be a powerful learning opportunity. It’s … Read more

Who’s Assessing Whom & Why?

I’ve been reflecting on the growing popularity of organizational capacity assessment tools, used for a variety of purposes by nonprofit leaders, consultants and funders. I did some research and discovered there are literally dozens of tools available for free or low cost online. A thoughtful 2017 guide includes a database of 91 tools and describes … Read more

Can I Be Frank?

Sitting down to write this post, ideas were swirling around my head, colliding into each other. I had just read several recent reports and blog posts set aside in a “food for thought” email folder. There was Open Road Alliance’s startling—but not surprising—research finding that “Funder-created Obstacles” were the most common type of roadblock mission-driven … Read more

Empathy and Social Justice

A couple weeks before the year-end holidays, I fell down and injured my knee and wrist. While not the first time I’ve had serious injuries, it was the first time an injury caused me serious mobility challenges. For over a week, I could barely walk and didn’t go out much. The experience was humbling. When … Read more

Examining Cultural Bias in Evaluation

Over the past few years, I’ve been called to examine the ways my cultural, racial and socio-economic background influences the work I do with nonprofit staff and boards, especially in program evaluation projects. I’d like to share a few insights I’ve gained from this exploration of what is now often called “white privilege”. My middle … Read more

A Key to Working with Consultants: The Design Team

In my July 2016 newsletter, I wrote about a strategy project I was leading–with consulting partner Regina Neu–for a professional membership association. I described the well-received retreat exercise we developed to help board and staff members better understand how important decisions were currently being made and to design more robust and transparent decisionmaking protocols for … Read more

Does Everyone Understand How Decisions Are Made?

Last time, I mentioned I was launching a “strategy alignment” project with a professional membership association. Consulting partner Regina Neu and I were hired to help the association: 1) hone in on the most crucial of their current strategic plan’s long list of priorities, 2) create an actionable implementation plan with accountability, 3) develop greater … Read more

The Difference A Theory of Change Makes: Ways The Tough Process Reaps Big Rewards

Theory of change planning is hard work; there’s no question about this. It challenges leaders to question why they do what they do and have been doing for a long time. The process forces the leaders to make tough decisions, decisions they may have avoided making for some time. For instance, it is not uncommon … Read more

October 2015 Newsletter

I just finished teaching a 2-evening Program Evaluation course at California State University East Bay. This month, I engaged students in a quasi-debate fueled by a 2-part SSIR essay arguing that nonprofit service providers should NOT evaluate their own program outcomes. Because they lack social science research expertise and face conflicts of interest in reporting … Read more

How Strategy & Theory of Change Converged to Strengthen a Nonprofit

Several years ago, a social justice organization in an underserved low-income community solicited significant stakeholder input and developed a strategic plan that laid out a vision and broad goals for long-term positive social change. The planning team did not create an implementation plan to operationalize its ambitious goals, however. A few years later, a funder … Read more