West River Consulting provides these services to non-profit organizations, schools, foundations, government agenciesand socially responsible businesses on an hourly, daily, or project basis.
Convening and Strengthening Partnerships
Shared goals and interests provide an excellent starting point for potential powerful partnerships and coalitions. Their success, however, depends on the details of working together and identifying individual strengths. My experiences and skills with building consensus and facilitating productive, respectful discussions on often thorny issues can help partnerships at different points in their growth. As chair of a school board that oversaw the merger of two schools, I drew heavily on these skills.
Developing Issue Campaigns
I bring a combination of formal training, hands-on experience and innate skills when I help organizations think through the development of an issue campaign in a systematic and logical way. Many organizations know what they want to achieve but do not always know how to get from point A to point B. This was a critical component of my work as Coordinator of Vermont’s statewide early childhood coalition (Kids Are Priority One Coalition) and in a similar role in Connecticut.
I work collaboratively with clients to set meeting/retreat goals and build the agenda. In my role as facilitator, I gently guide participants from discussion to decision-making. My facilitation style blends humor and flexibility with a focused, systematic approach to ensuring concrete and specific outcomes. My goal of using meetings to build community is reflected in my comfort with participatory decision-making approaches such as the consensus model. Meeting facilitation was an integral part of my role as Coordinator (2000-2011) of Vermont’s statewide early childhood coalition (Kids Are Priority One) and in my current capacity as chair of a joint school board.
Groups, organizations, agencies, school boards and other entities that require close collaboration to function effectively often get "stuck." This can be explained by personality conflicts, incompatible management styles, poor communication, an unclear decision-making process, conflicting goals, and other factors. Using various techniques and tools, I work with groups to identify where they are stuck, the reasons for that and strategies to help them advance their goals in a collaborative and harmonious way.
Years of analyzing policy proposals, state and federal legislation and regulations have honed my skills in this area, especially in the field of early childhood and elementary education. Policy briefs are an excellent tool to help organizations and individuals make decisions about policy recommendations or policy positions.
My qualitative research skills, combined with a clear writing style and incisive analysis, result in evaluations that have practical use. When working for the federal government and then the Harvard Family Research Project, I produced a 30-60 page report every three months for six years on a wide range of topics related to family support, child development, early learning, and elementary education. Several years ago, I completed an evaluation of a national project on language acquisition among multilingual children.
My excellent organizational and time management skills serve clients well when I’m managing projects that require strict adherence to timelines; involve multiple individuals/organizations; and a "point person" to ensure that work products are completed on time. I work well in a team setting and adapt easily to diverse work styles.
Report Writing and Editing
Foundations, legislative bodies, non-profit organizations and state agencies need to write reports at some point but do not always have the in-house capacity to do so. I am skilled at synthesizing large amounts of information and presenting it in a readable format. A recent project entailed conducting twenty-two interviews, synthesizing the information collected and developing recommendations for the client to consider.
Organizations and agencies often find themselves at a point in their development where they need to take a step back, re-evaluate their goals and strategic direction and map out a course for achieving newly-articulated goals. I guide clients through the process of developing and implementing a strategic plan. The Gathering Place (Brattleboro, VT) is one example of a recent client.
Targeted Support for Clarifying Strategic Decisions
When thinking about how to best approach an issue, organizations often benefit from the perspective of someone who is not directly involved in the work. Outsiders often feel more freedom to ask "hard" questions, assess available resources that may have been overlooked and identify opportunities that are often more difficult for those close to the issue to see. Providing support in this way does not require that I am familiar with the particular issue at hand. I am available on an hourly or per diem basis for organizations/agencies that are seeking a very short-term engagement with a consultant.
Whether you have a short-term initiative that needs outside management, a position paper requiring research and analysis or a formal independent evaluation to conduct, West River Consulting can help. Let me put my unique combinations of skills and experience to work for you. I promise my commitment and thoroughness in getting your job done.