Capacity building to us means the 'what-it-takes to help move a group of people from A to B' – whether it’s (un)learning a skill, process or a different way of thinking, and doing. The “how” of capacity building can take the form of performance improvement programming, learning and training systems, customized resources, or coaching … and more often than not, a combination thereof. Capacity building is more of a long-game than some of our other work, often (but not always) spanning months or even years … but of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say.
Sometimes our clients need an extra set of eyes and ears (otherwise known as a 'standby debate team') to explore solutions. When we consult, we are working with folks at a specific point in their lifecycle. In some cases, we are helping executive teams and Boards map out options to solve issues or capitalize an opportunity; sometimes we come in as an objective third party to lead a sticky conversation. Often, but not always, this happens during the exciting service program review, strategic planning and budgeting seasons.
We create content for all sorts of things like knowledge products, stories, case studies, copywriting for campaigns, organizational reporting, grant applications and more. Usually with a cold drink and a salty snack, we love to bring the aspirations and outcomes of our clients’ work to life with words. Without this step, sharing success and learning from challenges can be fairly limited. Even though we live in a digital world, we still need to take the time to capture our lessons learned and share them with others in tangible ways.
Good design is at the heart of what we do. We feel strongly that there is room for design thinking in every project, of any budget. When we talk design we are talking of designing systems for people doing important work, designing experiences where people can discover something about themselves and others, designing learning programs where people can evolve the skills they’ve built through experience, designing services that are engaging for our client’s clients. Oh yes, and information design … that thing that everyone appreciates when it’s done well, but often forgets to plan for. It goes something like "this looks amazing and is so easy to use", to which we reply, "yes, that was by design".
Our clients often come to us with ideas for change; however, measuring change is critically important, particularly in times of austerity (never-mind to understand exactly why things worked, or didn't). Over several large-scale evaluations, we have honed our processes to generate robust evaluation frameworks, zero in on critical indicators, employ effective and efficient data collection methods and summarize findings for our clients in comprehensive yet usable reports. We evaluate programs at impact, outcome, and process levels to help our clients learn and grow from their experiences, and share the wealth with those looking to replicate success.
Facilitation & Engagement
Let's talk engagement. We live to get a good conversation going. Nothing gives us more satisfaction than designing an engagement with a diverse group of people who leave in very different places then when they arrived. We do not strive to entertain (no facilitator “ice breakers” or fidget toys seen here). We strive for self-reflection, shared learning, mutual respect and finding common ground (and space for divergent opinions too). And if we may say so, we are darn good at it. Clients, even those with the highest of expectations, are often amazed at what we can get groups to accomplish together in a very short amount of time.
KM, KT, KTE, KT&E, KE, K*, KJLH … ok that last one is made-up. Whatever you call it, moving knowledge into practice doesn’t just happen. We cut our early career teeth building processes to support and evolve a network with a team of knowledge brokers facilitating use of research-based, practice-based, and experience-based evidence in practice. Without effort and investment to collect, consolidate and share knowledge in timely and relevant ways (remember, content is king but context is key) we would spend even more time starting from square one then we already do in this country. The knowledge and experience of others is such a useful platform to support your next step up.
What do you think of when you hear “white space”? We think of networks. We think of the work that happens not just within but between groups, between communities, between sectors. Network building is a choreographed art of establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial connections between multiple parties, with a fine balance of just-enough frequency to help inform work but not get in the way of it (or direct it). This requires dedicated infrastructure (often technology-based) and support (often human-based) and when done well, the organized whole is different than the sum of its parts (otherwise known as “gestalt”).
Sometimes clients come to us with very specific aspirations. They already have a project in mind but need help getting it done. Usually these projects align with, and even extend the vision of the organization but are outside of the usual day-to-day operations (and capacity). This is where we come in. We help design, build work plans, evaluation plans, and often support implementation to help get things up and running while working with in-house staff to ensure a smooth transition. Seeing projects thrive after our time together is the stuff we like to talk about at dinner parties.
Ahhh research … it can be a shock for some to learn you don’t need a PhD or a permanent university gig to contribute to the shared knowledge pool in a meaningful way. We conduct discovery research ourselves when the mood strikes us, though more often, we help our clients conduct research including primary research (don't worry, we employ scientific methods), secondary research and reviews, environmental scans, needs assessments, gap analysis, sector analysis and much more. What we love about research in the field is that you can generate meaningful insights to share with people in timely ways while others wait 3 years for peer review (we kid, we kid). We know you can do both, we publish in peer-review journals too!