Which way do we go?

Peachtree ST.

By now my fellow American Evaluation Associate (AEA) members are busy writing their proposals for AEA 2016 scheduled to take place here in Atlanta in late October.

Now for those of you who have never visited our fair city, be forewarned – all streets in Atlanta are named Peachtree Street. Just kidding! But there are a LOT of streets with Peachtree in the name. For example, there is Peachtree Street (the main drag) as well as West Peachtree, Peachtree Battle, Peachtree-Dunwoody, Peachtree Road…..Get the idea? If Wikipedia can be trusted, there are in fact 71 roads with Peachtree in the name. If you want a history about all that read on……

Why all this talk about roads? I suppose because deciding which way to go is on my mind these days. Two weeks ago, CES had their first company retreat. Our little business has grown over the last 11 years. In October we hired a full time research associate (see Emily’s guest blog) and moved into our permanent new home. It’s time to take a look back so that we can look forward to our future.

So I gathered the brightest folks I know, none of them evaluators, but all with a lot of business experience. It was a day of sharing, laughter and talking about our successes and challenges (aka opportunities). We discussed our mission, vision, project management systems, budgets, and time tracking. We looked at our proposal win/loss rate and in general, bared our soul. It was exhausting honestly.

Then as happens in small firms, I had a report to write. In the past few weeks, I was added to a state-level evaluation team for a network of community collaboratives (more on that in future posts), continued working with leaders on improving educational opportunities for kids in foster care and got a book deal with my friend Susan Wolfe. All good things! But you know, personally, there is a lot going on too. My youngest is moving through his junior year in high school, friends are dealing with aging parents, young couples we know struggle to make a life for themselves, and a friend lost a long battle with heart disease. I am struck every day about how short life is.

Community Evaluation Solutions So what does this have to do with my business plan? 

Well I just submitted that report, so for the moment nothing is in the way of me writing that plan. So now I am faced with the butcher block paper that covers our conference room walls waiting to be turned into our new strategic plan. But it’s pretty overwhelming. I mean, did you ever take business classes in grad school? Can you relate?

My staff will be the first to tell you I am a marshmellow and I have a hard time saying no. I may not exactly know how I want the business to grow at this point but, I do know one thing. Our tag line, ‘Partnering for social change,’ still fits. It is the heart of everything we do. Whether or not we are working on a substance abuse prevention plan, an afterschool program or working with a foundation to define their focus and strategies, social and systems change is what we are about. So as I work to redefine who we are — that sign post will guide us, no matter what street we find ourselves on.