As Informing Change marks its silver anniversary, we, the Leadership Team, we reflect on what our work has taught us since 1998 and on how that has influenced how we operate as a company and will inform our next quarter-century.
Reflections on Our Work
- The Internet was still in its nascent stages in 1998. (Remember dial-up?) The subsequent and ongoing digitalization of our society that now connects the entire world through screens that fit in our pockets has had immense ramifications for how we work (e.g., Zoom), the type of fields we work in (e.g., cybersecurity), and ethical considerations that didn’t even exist back then (e.g., the handling of personal data stored digitally). Our approach to data ethics is much richer and more governed by our commitments to co-creation with clients and communities than it was even a decade ago.
- The social justice reckoning of the past several years, including movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, continually challenges us to ask ourselves who we really want to work with as a company (see the equity statement we wrote last year). We have increasingly sought projects that:
- Promote race and intersectional equity, including but not limited to socioeconomic and immigration status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and disability;
- Give deep attention to context, complexity, and efforts to intervene in how complex systems function—or don’t—and change (whether organizational, institutional, or just plain old human);
- Use participatory research approaches and methods; and
- Help our clients strengthen their internal cultures of learning and evaluation practices and make them more equitable.
- Importantly, we don’t keep our work and findings to ourselves. As part of the ACE Network and Expanding the Bench, we develop and share new frameworks and contribute to communities of evaluators working to do our work more equitably.
- In 2015, we recognized that (1) foundations and nonprofits were increasingly supporting collective efforts to influence social and economic systems and (2) evaluation methods to track progress toward, and learn from, complex systems change, media campaigns, and policy advocacy interventions had evolved sufficiently for us to use them with our clients. This prompted us to shift to a more explicit strategic learning approach by undertaking an intensive learning journey into complex systems change.
- We have strengthened our facilitation skills and research methods toolkit, broadened our policy advocacy and media (e.g., film)/arts evaluation work, and added experience with civil rights and legal services organizations.
- In 2019, we formalized the above and adopted these as the company’s strategic priorities in the form of: Equity-focused evaluation and design; Participatory Action Research; and Complex adaptive Systems change work (EPARCS), where equity-focused projects and culturally responsive and equitable evaluation methods are prioritized.
- As our current and future clients’ strategic thought partners, we will continue supporting them to put equity, inclusion, and community participation at the forefront.
Reflections on Our Company Culture
Informing Change has evolved with each generation of leadership. When Ellen Irie, our previous leader, passed away in 2018, our company was bonded and strengthened during that time of grieving. As the current Leadership Team established after Ellen’s passing, we have learned to lead together, share in decision-making, and lean into our shared values. Our staff supports our local communities, shifts into leadership at all levels, and uses data to advocate for change. We have:
- Redefined success as learning from our mistakes and giving staff time to learn.
- We learned that a company’s culture is not set in stone and evolves to reflect our current leadership and staff while remaining grounded in our company values.
- Embraced discomfort as a source of growth.
- Consistently support one another; collaboration and teamwork define our approach because we are stronger when we work together and support one another.
- Our alums continue to inform change! From leading national philanthropic organizations to advising on state policy, to being independent consultants, we are proud of our alumni network of changemakers and are excited to see what’s next for both current and former colleagues. Check out some of their recent updates in the comments on our LinkedIn.
- We’ve also learned to be resilient in uncertain times, helping us survive a multi-year pandemic as we shifted to a hybrid working model. This has allowed us to expand our hiring search outside the Bay Area to find individuals we believe are most qualified and epitomize our values without sacrificing or compromising due to geography. This change is also a nod to our commitment to work-life balance, as it allows our staff to work from wherever they need to be on any given day.
In closing, we are proud of the impact we have had in supporting organizations in the Bay Area and beyond for the past 25 years. We will continue building on the legacy of change – formed along with those who came before us – to leave a stronger foundation for those who will come after us.