Community Evaluation Solutions Partnering for Social Change Thu, 18 Apr 2019 19:10:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Saying Goodbye is not easy: Emily’s Reflections on her time at CES Mon, 01 Apr 2019 16:27:03 +0000 Baby’s First Job

Passion Led Us Here

If you have met me or read my last blog post, you know that I consider myself an introvert (Go Team ISTJ!). My introversion let me stew in my comfort zone for a few years before I decided to branch out and get a little uncomfortable. While working at CES isn’t my first full-time, post-grad job, I will always remember this company as the first step out of my comfort zone, and consequently, the place where I flourished. If you didn’t already know, I am leaving CES in May to pursue a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of North Georgia. As I reflect on the time I’ve spent working with Ann and Sally, I wanted to highlight a few quotes that define the last couple of years of my life.

I worked in the same place during undergraduate and graduate school, then again when I graduated with my MPH. The job had nothing to do with the degrees I was pursuing, but I was good at it and I enjoyed it. It took me a long time to understand that being good at something doesn’t mean that something is good for you. When I left that job, I had no plans for where I would go or what I would do; I just needed room to grow. Luckily, after a little bouncing around, I ended up here at CES. Ann and Sally both mentored and supported me, but allowed me room to grow into who I am now. I came to Ann with little to no evaluation experience, and she molded me into an evaluator I am proud to be. Taking a chance and stepping out of my comfort zone has led to an amazing experience that I would not trade for the world.

Not to be dramatic, but working at CES changed how I view the world. I never realized how narrow-minded I was when it came to serving others until I saw all the ways our clients serve their communities. Service is unlimited. To quote a blog I posted for MLK, Jr. day in 2018: “Something I recently discovered is that there isn’t one right way to make a difference. Whether you have mobilized people for a cause, mentored a young child, or given your time to a local non-profit organization, you are significant, and the impact you are having matters. One of my favorite things about working for CES is our tagline: Partnering for Social Change. Our clients are all working to better their communities, and I am so grateful to be a part of that process.” Ann, Sally, and every single one of our clients serve in unique ways, and seeing this has allowed me to accept the fact that my service doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s to be important.

Have you read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis? I might be the only millennial woman who hasn’t, but Ann keeps telling me I need to. I think the one thing that working at CES has taught me more than anything else is confidence. Ann is fearless. She’s strong, smart, and stands up for what she wants and believes. While I’ve known women like this throughout my life, Ann is the first one to truly invest in me personally, not just professionally. I will never forget my first employee review at CES (I was terrified, in case you were wondering). Ann told me to stick up for myself and not be afraid to say what I am thinking. Internally, I thought “well, I might as well tack on ‘learn to fly’ to the list of unrealistic expectations and just call this one a loss.” Lucky for me, Ann wasn’t going to let that happen. She allowed me to work independently but was there when I needed help. She affirmed that my voice was just as important as anyone else’s in the room. She made sure I had opportunities to strengthen my relationships with our clients and to network with others in the fields of public health and evaluation. She made me realize my self-worth.

As I enter a new field and end this chapter in my life, all I can do is think about how grateful I am that Ann and Sally took a chance on me, and how lucky the next girl will be.


]]> 0 Winter Doldrums and the New Year Tue, 08 Jan 2019 01:37:47 +0000 /?p=843 Screen Shot 2019-01-07 at 8.27.11 PMNot sure what the weather is like where you are, but here in Georgia, its raining. AGAIN! I think it has been raining for 6 weeks straight. We are on track to have the second rainiest season Georgia has ever had so I may not be exaggerating all that much.

Many years ago, my husband and I visited on of my sisters in Oregon. It was a rare week there; it was sunny and mild and oh-so green. Dan was just about to pack up and head to out west when my sister said, “Dan, there is a reason it is so green.” That is so true right? We cannot have green grass and healthy crops without rain and everyone knows that Oregon gets a lot of it.

Last year at this time I wrote about Seasons. So much in my personal life was changing. I had big decisions to make about the business too. No doubt, the same will be true in 2019. That is just the nature of life.

When I look at my vision board from last year (and no, you can’t see it), there are just a few major goals I realized. There is so much more I want to accomplish, both personally and professionally and the time seems to pass more quickly each day. Can you relate?

There is so much good work that needs to be done in the world.

Screen Shot 2019-01-07 at 8.27.33 PMSo, I resolve to get to work to make a difference. I hope to be kinder and healthier; to laugh more and take more time off. I hope to add more joy and less stress to any situation I am in. I want to help you and others do good work, the kind that really changes communities. Here are CES we are recommitting to our tag line, Partnering for Social Change. Won’t you join us?

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The Top 5 Things That Determine the Success of a Community Coalition Mon, 15 Oct 2018 23:30:53 +0000 /?p=835 Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 7.16.43 PM

#1. Leadership

In the many years that I have been working with community coalitions and collaboratives, choosing the right leader maybe the cornerstone that determines a coalition’s success. An effective coalition leader requires a combination of charisma, attention to detail, and someone who is a savvy politician. It takes charisma to attract and keep the community members needed to do the work. Because the coalition is likely funded by a cobbling of state and federal grants, all with their own rules and regulations, the coalition leader needs to be a detailed administrator. It takes a lot of work in order to meet all of the varied grant requirements and financial obligations. Finally, managing community stakeholders, all of whom have varied opinions, motivations and perhaps agendas, is challenging and requires political savvy.

#2. Make a plan, then stick to it (and change it if needed)

Ideally a community coalition’s change efforts will start with a comprehensive community assessment and data review. The coalition should conduct qualitative interviews with community members and leaders. The coalition should also take a deep dive into local data. Then, once the coalition (not just the staff) reviews and digests the data, they need to design a plan that truly reflects the needs and desires of the community. Then the coalition needs to stick with the plan. Ideas will come and go and crises happen. Sometimes, you need to tweak your plan in order to respond to the community’s needs. However, it’s important for the coalition to stay focused and avoid the shiny objects in the water. For example, if alcohol is the drug of choice among youth, the coalition should focus on that and understand the local conditions that support underage drinking. If the coalition is tasked by a funder to prevent substance misuse and abuse, they should not focus on treatment. I am not saying that other substances or the need for treatment are not important issues. But other community stakeholders likely lead in these areas. The coalition has limited time and resources and needs to think about where they spend their time and energy. We can think of similar examples for other types of coalitions. For example, a coalition that focuses on 3rd grade literacy but spends all of their time implementing programs that have nothing to do with literacy likely won’t move an indicator of improved 3rd grade reading levels. A community coalition needs to use good judgement before choosing what action to take and a focused leader to keep the coalition on track (See point 1).

#3. Nothing about us, without us

Way too many community coalitions commit the unforgiveable sin of not including community members. Involving professionals in the community is important. But involving the people the coalition intends to serve is critically important. So, for a substance abuse prevention coalition that focusses on youth, that means making sure students are engaged fully in the work of the coalition. Likewise, if the coalition is supposed to address low birth weight babies, then young women must be engaged.

#4. Focus on systems change

Too often prevention approaches and early intervention programs focus on the individual person. Sometimes, programs target community groups, by offering a community forum or parent education night. Although community education is important, changing knowledge is not sufficient for the kind of change we all want to see in our community.

A public health approach to prevention is one that considers the context of the problem and reaches as many people as possible. It also considers the social determinants of health, variables that are associated with where people live, work, play and pray.

At the heart of it, a public health approach requires systems change. Systems change means focusing on the structures, laws, policies and community attitudes that allow a social problem to happen. For example, let’s look at domestic violence. People often wonder why a woman stays in a violent relationship, but rarely do people ask what is it about our society that allows violence to flourish? How does how law enforcement and the judicial system respond to violence against women? How easy is it for women to access support? How do people feel about victims of interpersonal violence? Do they feel that the woman is to blame?

#5. The boring stuff – structure

Community members join, then stay in coalitions in order to make a difference in their community. People attracted to a community coalition tend to be passionate and anxious contribute to the work of bettering their community. But a coalition without a structure (that is, job descriptions, written by-laws, and an active steering committee that provides budget oversight and supervision for the coalition staff) is destined for trouble. We have seen work plans not implemented because a coalition director tried to do it all or just would not delegate the work to committees. We have seen coalitions nearly derailed because of disagreements between the fiscal agent and staff and financial mistakes made by staff that threatened funding. Butterfoss and Kegler’s (2002) Community Coalition Action Theory (CCAT) is helpful in guiding coalitions and helping them to avoid these and other pitfalls. We use the CCAT as a framework for understanding our coalition clients and assessing the health of the coalition. For one client, we created a coalition logic model using the CCAT model and used it to educate the coalition on what they need to do in order to position themselves for success. Have a community coalition and need some guidance? We’d love to help. You can reach us at

Butterfoss, FD, Kegler, MC. | In DiClemente, R, Crosby, L, Kegler, MC. (Eds.) Emerging Theories in Health Promotion Practice and Research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2002, 157-193.

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AEA Summer Institute Takeaways Mon, 16 Jul 2018 22:31:15 +0000 /?p=825 Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 6.32.49 PMLast month, I had the opportunity to attend the Summer Evaluation Institute hosted by AEA. I met some great people and learned a lot about evaluation. I’m what my family likes to call a “professional student” – I would be in school for the rest of my life if I could. I took pages and pages of notes, organized the resources I was given, and came up with this list of the lessons I learned while there.

1. Evaluation isn’t just for evaluators.

Going into the institute, I was so nervous. With just under a year of professional evaluation experience under my belt, I was sure I would be behind in some of the workshops. That definitely wasn’t the case. Now, I’m not claiming to be an evaluation master, but there were fewer evaluators attending than I anticipated. Project developers and managers, health promotion specialists, policy analysts, and more came from all over the country to learn about evaluation.

This isn’t a new concept for me, but it was strongly reinforced at the Institute. Working with Ann at Community Evaluation Solutions has taught me that building an organization’s evaluation capacity is an important part of being an evaluation consultant. We want to make sure that our clients can and will continue to evaluate their programs, even after our contracts end.

Fun Fact: Ann actually taught a workshop at the Summer Institute this year on this very topic: Tools and Techniques for Assessing and Strengthening Nonprofits’ Evaluation Capacity.

2. The content is the paint, but the presentation is the canvas.

Bear with me. What I mean here is that the canvas is what brings the art together. If you’ve got a ton of information, but no clear way to deliver it, it’s as good as buckets of paint on the ground. The final product is what gets remembered, and if you can’t bring all of your paint together to tell a story, then what’s the point?

Out of the five workshops I attended, there are two that I will likely remember for a while. I am painfully introverted, and as a result of that I have a strong aversion to public speaking. One of the workshops I attended was about strategies to engage your audience when presenting. Not only did I learn about the strategies, but I saw them in practice. The speaker, Sheila Robinson of Greece Central School District, was captivating and informative, which can be difficult. Kylie Hutchinson, the second speaker I will not soon forget, was personable and fun. Usually when a presenter throws facts at you, they are forgotten as soon as you walk out the door. These two speakers presented the information in a way that will make it sticky and easy to recall/repeat. I’m hesitant to say that I am excited to put what I’ve learned to use, because that would mean I have to stand up in front of a group and present, but I already feel more prepared for my next presentation.

3. It really does matter where you work.

As I mentioned in #1, I have been working for Ann for almost a year now. One of the best things about CES is that I’m able to put my hands on so many different projects and learn a little about a lot. Well, the main thing that the Institute taught me is that I haven’t learned a little about a lot, I’ve learned a lot about a lot. I honestly did not expect to learn as much as I did in my first year, and I did not realize how much I had learned until last month.

In my last workshop, we were split up into groups and given a few tasks. In my group there were a couple of young evaluators, an epidemiologist, a program developer, and a few disease prevention specialists. Working through the tasks made me realize how much I already knew about evaluation. I could answer questions that my group had, give examples of work we had done at CES, and explain why certain techniques were used in different situations. I’ve never been very good at networking but being knowledgeable about evaluation helped in that other people wanted to start conversations with me about my experience at CES. Knowledge is power, and Ann sure has given me a lot of it.

Overall, the Summer Institute was an amazing learning and networking opportunity. There are classes for all levels, and I really think non-evaluators would benefit from attending. Hopefully I am able to attend next year, but until then I will learn every day with Ann.

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The AEA Summer Institute: A First-Timer’s Impression Mon, 16 Jul 2018 22:21:44 +0000 /?p=821 Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 6.16.21 PMThe AEA Summer Institute: A First-Timer’s Impression Daniel Snook is currently working at Community Evaluation Solutions doing a practicum in program evaluation.

My first trip to the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) summer institute was eye-opening. I was aware of evaluation as a practice and as a useful tool for program development and improvement before I arrived, but I was not aware of the full breadth of Evaluation with a capital ‘E’ (i.e., evaluation as a field). Suffice to say, I now know just how much I don’t know about the incredibly multi-faceted field of evaluation.

My background is in psychology, specifically I’m a PhD student studying Community Psychology at Georgia State University. At the beginning of the conference I was feeling a bit like an incognito psychologist—I didn’t want anyone to realize that I hadn’t been doing evaluation work for years and that I didn’t identify per se as an ‘Evaluator’, at least, not yet. Community Psychology is essentially the study of how communities impact individual, and most programs (including my own) provide some training in social program evaluation. However, learning about a suite of techniques in theory and learning about them in practice are very different things. Occasionally the academic world and the real world come crashing together– that was my experience at the AEA summer institute. It was simultaneously awesome and discomfiting, and it was a great place to learn a lot very quickly! Here are some highlights of what I learned:

1. Theory matters– no matter how applied your work is.

I came into the first session I attended, Program Theory, led by Dr. Stuart Donaldson thinking I would find myself in comfortable (read: ‘academic’) territory. One of the first activities we did challenged that idea almost immediately. Dr. Donaldson asked each of the groups of audience members to evaluate the room in which we were sitting. Each table and its members were then asked to assume roles, for instance, as teams of interior decorators, information technology specialists, or, in our case, firefighters. The number of different ideas about what makes a room ‘good’ or ‘successful’ from these various perspectives was staggering. As you might expect, the lesson became quite clear: your approach to and expectations of a situation (i.e. theory) significantly impacts your practice, even if you don’t explicitly realize it.

2. Avoid “The Curse of Knowledge.”

In her keynote presentation, veteran evaluator Kylie Hutchinson described some of the basics of effectively communicating evaluation results to stakeholders. A prime mistake, she says, that presenters make, whether in evaluation or otherwise, is assuming their audience knows what they know. This is, of course, more of an implicit than explicit assumption; evaluators are consciously aware that their clients do not know every detail of the evaluation, yet their presentations often don’t reflect that. Understanding your audience’s starting point by doing things as simple as laying off the jargon or explaining acronyms can keep your audience from zoning out or rolling their eyes. It’s also tempting to include every detail about your evaluation just because each detail is important to you. But your audience hasn’t been working on the evaluation at that level of detail, so spare them all of your knowledge and focus only on what you know is important to them. If you can say it more simply, then do so.

3. Good presentations are good; bad presentations are terrible.

The AEA summer institute left me with the distinct impression that evaluators are very good presenters. They’re practically oriented, which means they want to get to the bottom of what makes a program successful (or unsuccessful) and then get to the point in telling the client about it. Evaluators also have a very high bar for data visualization, tools for incorporating theory into practice (e.g., logic models), and techniques for transforming vague goals into tangible and measurable specifics. However, I also learned a bit about how NOT to present. I’ve mentioned jargon once already, but I have to reiterate that purposefully using jargon, whether it’s to obscure the fact that you’ve got nothing substantive to say or to create a veneer of professionalism, wastes everyone’s time. Finally, to be frank, not all content is worth presenting. If you’re on the fence about whether the ideas in your presentation are worth sharing, they’re probably not.

4. Invest in your evaluations early.

The readiness is all, and that holds especially true for evaluation. Several of the sessions I attended discussed the importance of being prepared for your evaluation from start to finish to set yourself up for success. Sheila Robinson’s excellent session on strategies for evaluation planning encouraged me to ask the right questions– the why, what, and how of conducting an evaluation– early on (i.e., before beginning an evaluation). In other sessions, presenters made it clear that whether you’re using pilot studies or cognitive interviewing, it’s well worth your time to explore your proposed theory of change, your indicators, and whatever else you can before they’re set in stone. Acting with intentionality at the outset of an evaluation pays big dividends when it’s time to present findings.

5. Always mix your methods.

One thing that I already knew as a researcher, but that was reinforced powerfully at the AEA summer institute, is that it’s always best to use both qualitative and quantitative methods of measurement. Listening to speaker after speaker, it became increasingly apparent that quantitative or qualitative measures alone are simply inadequate for telling the whole truth. Quantitative methods are critical for providing the evidence in ‘evidence-based’. That’s not to say qualitative data cannot be considered evidence, but it is by its very nature more subjective, and requires ‘quantifying’ to become less open to interpretation. Quantitative data will satisfy the number crunchers in the room as well as make your findings look and feel more robust. But it isn’t quite enough. Qualitative data brings the ‘human’ element to the human sciences in ways that quantitative data cannot, because it enables researchers to (often literally) take the perspective of the participant. That makes for insightful narratives and stories that not only bring the results of an evaluation to life, but also give a human voice and face to the ‘hard’ data that’s been brought to the table. At the AEA summer institute, all the best presentations of evaluation results discussed both quantitative and qualitative elements.

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How to Kill Your Community Coalitions and Collaboratives Mon, 16 Apr 2018 22:41:18 +0000 /?p=810 How to Kill Your Community Coalitions and Collaboratives: Meet and Talk Meetings

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Because CES works with a lot of community collaboratives and coalitions, I attend a lot of community meetings. So, I see the good, the bad, and just plain ineffective. What I have observed is that there are some sure-fire things you should NOT do if you want to fire up your community for change. (Note: for the purpose of this blog, I use the terms coalitions and collaboratives interchangeably).

Meet and Talk meetings are probably the most common meeting killer that I see. In this type of meeting, attendees go around the room and share updates of their organizations, one after another. There is no work done, no direction, and participants don’t really connect in any meaningful way. What participants share in the meeting really could be done through other means like email updates, newsletters, or social media posts. There isn’t really a purpose that brings participants together and if you use this type of structure consistently, you shouldn’t be surprised if the energy, and eventually your attendance, decreases.

Another guaranteed meeting killer is to have guest speakers present at each and every meeting. Although your participants may learn something valuable, this type of meeting has the same effect as the Meet and Talk type of meeting. Participants don’t really connect in any meaningful way, and there is no work done.

After all, isn’t collaboration is THE whole point of a community coalition or collaborative?

Recently, Gabrielle Hawkins-Stewart, a Prevention Support Specialist for Georgia Family Connection Partnership, led a discussion for a group of community collaborative coordinators on how to have effective meetings. This list will highlight some of these ideas along with some of my own suggestions about ways to infuse energy in community collaborative meetings. If you have been having Meet and Talk meetings for a while, you may have noticed that your attendance is down. If that is the case, you definitely want to act quickly and shake things up.

  1. Get energy started before people enter the room. Have music playing. Have a bright color table cloth at the sign in table. Place candy and table toys around the room. Start with a quick, fun ice breaker. Introduce new members and help everyone connect, but don’t waste valuable time having everyone introduce themselves.
  2. Remember – the whole point of gathering your community leaders and members together is to collaborate. So, make the meeting about collaboration! If you have time, make part of the meeting a work session, perhaps letting committees and workgroups meet briefly within the meeting to have a work session. At the very least, committee and workgroups should provide updates tied to your work plan. This of course, requires you to assign responsibility for your action plan to the committees/workgroups in the first place! If your time is limited, you might want to have longer work sessions every other meeting or perhaps quarterly.
  3. If you are going to have guest speakers, require them to attend a certain number of meetings before they get the floor. This will help you limit people who want to get their message out but are not tied to the work of the community collaborative/coalition. If you do have guest speakers, require them to complete an information form that structures their talk so that you can ensure that what they share ties back to the work of your coalition. Then as the leader, when the speaker is done, make sure YOU tie it back to the work. If you do have speakers, you might announce that there is a speaker and tease the topic, but don’t announce the name of the speaker.
  4. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea that you as the coalition or the collaborative leader lead the meeting. Use this opportunity to remind everyone why they are there. Share the purpose of the collaborative, share the goals and objectives you are trying to accomplish, the strategies you are implementing to accomplish those goals, and the data you are using to track your progress. Make sure you assign responsibility for the work to work groups and committees and use this time to show them why their work is important to achieving the collaboratives goals.
  5. Round table discussions are another way to involve collaborative members in the work. Identify some good discussion questions and group members discuss and report back. Concentrate on questions that are related to the work: the strategies and changes that the collaborative and coalition are putting into place.
  6. In order to provide the communication that your participants desire and expect, use different ways to facilitate communication other than taking valuable collaborative meeting time for report outs. For example, once a year, hold a resource fair so that members can share with each other what they do. You might consider limiting the first hour of the resource fair to members, then opening the resource fair to community members.
  7. Instead of members sharing details of their upcoming events during the meeting, create a newsletter with a Community Event corner.
  8. Encourage communication by sending out an email to those who missed the meeting with the message, “Missed the meeting? Call me (the collaborative leader) or a friend and find out what you missed!”
  9. Focus on the community outcomes your collaborative is trying to address (e.g. poverty, graduation rates, foster care, unemployment). Looking at your data only once a year when you update your work plan or write your year-end report isn’t effective. Use your indicator data often, perhaps quarterly, to inform your members about local conditions and help motivate them to stay/get engaged.
  10. You might consider asking groups to pay a small member fee to become a member of the coalition; they will have a little skin in the game and perhaps be more likely to attend collaborative meetings.
  11. Find resources to help you improve your meetings. Look for professionals in your community who are good facilitators and ask them to facilitate a meeting. SCORE is a nonprofit association and a resource partner of the Small Business Association (SBA) whose members are retired professionals dedicated to helping small businesses through education and mentorship. They have a wide variety of skills that may help your collaborative and your members.

We’d love to hear from you! What tips have you used for effective meetings?

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A Heart Full of Grace By Emily French Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:33:58 +0000 /?p=787 A Heart Full of Grace By Emily French

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A Heart Full of Grace By Emily French With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day coming up, I thought we could talk a little bit about social change and “making a difference.” What does that even mean, you might be thinking to yourself. I’m not sure that’s an answerable question – I think making a difference looks different for everyone.

I went to Mercer University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, worked as a graduate assistant, then became a full-time employee of the school. If you’re familiar with Mercer, you know that one of the most common university mottos is “At Mercer, everyone majors in changing the world.”

I spent a lot of my academic career wondering how I could make a difference. Should I apply for medical school or pursue public health? Should I go on mission trips with my church or volunteer locally? Should I advocate for legislative change or try to support disenfranchised individuals in a more personal way?

Something I recently discovered is that there isn’t one right way to make a difference. Whether you have mobilized thousands of people for a cause, mentored a young child, or given your time to a local non-profit organization, you are significant, and the impact you are having matters. One of my favorite things about working for CES is our tagline: Partnering for Social Change. Our clients are all working to better their communities, and I am so grateful to be a part of that process.

If you want to make a difference, the first step is to decide what is important to you. There are endless options: arts, the environment, children, health and wellness, the elderly, civil rights, etc. Look for opportunities to volunteer or donate to these causes. Volunteer Match is an online service that allows you to select service opportunities based on location and area of interest. Talking to friends, family, coworkers, pastors, etc. can give you more ideas of where to serve and how to get started. Ask your connections on social media if they know anyone who is in need of some help. My challenge to you is to find what you are passionate about, and find a way to serve that passion. Volunteer. Donate. Mentor. As Dr. King famously said in 1957, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

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Seasons Wed, 06 Sep 2017 23:21:53 +0000 /?p=779 Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 7.09.15 PM

So, how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Yep, me too.

Along with dropping those pesky pounds, I was going to blog faithfully and make sure our newsletter got out. Well that hasn’t happened! Sometimes, life happens and you just get busy. I think this is especially true when you own your own business. I am Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Marketing Director, Principal Investigator, Data Analyst, Head Janitor……you get the idea.

We welcomed, little Ellie, our first grandbaby in March. Our youngest son, Zach, graduated from high school in May and Dan and I said good-bye to high school marching band activities after 11 years with all three sons. We just got Zach settled at FSU where he is a trumpet performance major and made the Marching Chiefs. So, we are empty nesters after 18 years. We are also in the midst of selling our house and building a new one. Since the new house won’t be ready until mid-October, we will be living in a short-term lease apartment for a few months. We did sneak away to Glacier National Park (GHP). This picture was taken there. GNP has been on my bucket list for a long time and it more beautiful than can be believed. (Scientists predict the final 25 glaciers will be gone by 2030 so get there!).

In late May, we said good-bye to Emily Ayers, our Research Associate extraordinaire who left Georgia for Denver. Emily landed a great job and is enjoying the mile-high city with her twin sister. We miss her so much! After searching over the last few months, we found a new Emily. Seriously, her name is Emily! We welcome Emily French joined CES in August. Emily French is a recent MPH grad from Mercer. I love nothing more than mentoring young women so we are excited for both of them!

Speaking of young women, our awesome intern, Kara Mathewson did a great job supporting our clients this summer and learned a lot about real-world evaluation. Kara just returned to Emory to complete here 2nd and final year at Rollins School of Public Health where she is working on her MPH. Thank you, Kara!

So, we have lots going on. Sometimes it does feel like just too many changes all at once. On my desk is a verse that helps me breathe a little easier. No matter what your personal beliefs are, maybe it might help you too. Wishing you peace no matter what season of life you are in.

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

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6 Things I Tell Every Student Fri, 07 Apr 2017 16:50:01 +0000 /?p=760 Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 12.33.51 PM


As someone who has been working in communities for a while now, I get asked to speak to students a lot. I also get lots of requests for informational interviews. In the last year, I have spoken to 3 different classes of program evaluation students around the country; presented on 2 student interest panels; and have had many, many individual conversations with students. I always tell students the same six things:

1) The money is at the professional level of your degree. For psychology, that means a PhD; for a social worker, the professional level is an MSW; and for a public health professional, the professional level is usually an MPH. I recognize that money isn’t everything. My own parents did not want me to major in psychology. If you are reading this, like me, social change is important to you. But you have to be self-sufficient. So, do consider the level of education needed in your field and the amount of money you need to live.

2) You will slow down your job search process immensely if all you ever do is send out resumes. Most jobs are found through networking. Are you shy? Me too. Get over it.

3) Stay in contact with former professors, bosses and co-workers. You never know where you or they will end up. Make a point to contact them periodically. Use a spreadsheet to organize your contacts and when you last spoke to them. See point #2.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for informational interviews. An informational interview is a conversation you have with people about their job. You are not asking for a job, but are asking someone what they do, what education they have, and what they like and don’t like about their job. I always recommend before you leave to ask for 3 names and contact information for 3 of other people you should speak to. Most people love to talk about what they do, so don’t be afraid to ask. See point #2.

5) Put your best foot forward. Come dressed for success. Have at least one good suit. Business casual is for when you get the job. Have a fresh copy of your resume in hand. Do have a good handshake and look people in the eye. It’s trite-but-true — we are judged by people we meet within the first few minutes.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 12.34.06 PM6) Call me old-fashioned, but I am a big believer in thank you notes! Do send a thank you note, preferably a hand-written one. It will make you stand out especially because so many people fail to send a Thank you.

Hot Tip? The oldy-but goody book, What Color is your Parachute by Richard Bolles is full of tips from resumes to interviewing.

See here for a video blog I created just for students.

Good luck graduates!

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The Application of the Community Psychology Practice Competencies for Community Consulting Practice in the U.S Tue, 04 Apr 2017 23:23:18 +0000 /?p=757 Abstract

This article describes many of the competencies used for consulting with communities in the United States. It includes a description of each competency, how each is used, and tips for developing them. The article begins with a definition of community psychology consulting and how it is different from business or other forms of consulting. The different levels of competence and the interdisciplinary nature of the competencies needed for working in communities are discussed. The article maintains that all community psychology consultants need expertise in foundational competencies such as sociocultural and cross- cultural competence and commitment to improving public welfare and social and racial justice. The extent to which community psychology consultants need expertise in other competencies, such as community program development and management, community and social change, and community research, depends upon the type of consulting practice they will have. There is considerable overlap in competencies required for community psychology practice and those required for social work, public health, public administration, and other fields. Therefore, community psychologists interested in pursuing a career in community consulting might take courses or get additional training in other fields.


In 2012, the Society for Community Research and Action’s Task Group on Defining Practice Competencies presented a set of 18 community psychology practice competencies (Dalton & Wolfe, 2012). They described three levels of competence – exposure, experience, and expertise – and suggested that graduate students should at least be exposed to all the competencies during their training. Furthermore, the task group recognized that graduate programs would likely vary as to which competencies they emphasized. In 2015, Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice was published (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). The book describes many of the competencies and their application and provides recommendations for developing them. This article will include information about developing and using competencies commonly employed in community consulting in the United States. We derived the competencies from literature and our own and other community psychology consultants’ (CP consultants) experiences.

Read the full article here.

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