Just over a week ago, I started taking a free online course on Infographics and Data Visualization, taught by journalist Alberto Cairo and hosted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Knight Centre for Journalism in the Americas. Although journalism is not one of Strong Root’s core activities, I’m looking forward to learning more about how to visually present data findings – after all, what use is research and evaluation if the data is locked up behind jargon and massive tables of numbers? Ensuring that the research methods are participatory and accessible to everyone whose voice needs to be heard is only the start: the findings should likewise be understandable and relevant to all key stakeholders.
The Saskatoon Community Foundation is holding a grant writing workshop this coming Monday, January 21, 1-3pm, at the Cosmo Civic Centre (3130 Laurier Drive). The workshop is free and will focus on applying to the Saskatoon Community Foundation’s grants, but will also provide useful pointers for applying to other grantors as well.
There doesn’t seem to be any information on the Foundation’s website about this event (I learned about it from their email list – if you want to join it, there’s a signup button on the main page of their website), so if you have any questions or would like to RSVP you can contact Don Ewles by email or phone at 306-665-1766.
As you can see on the bottom of any page on this site, Strongrootsconsulting.ca is “Proudly Powered by WordPress“, an open-source blogging platform that in recent years has expanded to include Content Management System (CMS) features for websites like this one. I’ve used WordPress in the past for both professional and personal projects and have found it to be a versatile tool: friendly enough for beginners to get up and running quickly, while preserving the ability for more experienced hands to dive into code and tweak to heart’s content. If you need a quick website set up for an organization or new project, WordPress.com provides you with a free site in the form of http://yourproject.wordpress.com , with the option to set up your own domain name (www.yourproject.com) later on.
Anyway, what got me started on this post was a summary of my “2012 year in blogging“, prepared automatically by a WordPress service called JetPack. Pulling together site visit statistics into a visually-appealing page, I’ve learned interesting tidbits like the number of visitors to my site last year could fill four Boeing 787 aircraft, and that while most of my visitors were from Canada and the US, I also saw interest from Russia, Germany, India, and Argentina (those international visits likely coming from EvalCentral showcasing my posts). Although the system is not perfect – for example, it includes static pages such as the homepage on its list of popular blog posts – it does provide a good overview of last year’s stats.
Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a great holiday season and that 2013 is off to a good start. I’ll be hitting the ground running this January, starting with facilitating a conversation around social innovation at The Two Twenty tomorrow morning as part of their First Tuesday series (moved to the second Tuesday this month, as very few people would show up for anything at 7:30am on New Year’s Day!). Here’s the description from the Facebook page:
In Saskatoon and around the globe, there is a wave building, and its name is social innovation. Social innovation and social entrepreneurship move beyond the traditional models of charity and service delivery. Social entrepreneurship, crowdfunding, grassroots involvement, asset-based community development – these and many more creative approaches hold the power to change the playing field and spawn new methods of solving complex and daunting social issues, That being said, individuals and groups who drive social change often encounter barriers that preserve the status quo, like funding criteria that privilege certain types of organizations and activities over others, or a simple distrust of new ideas.
This First Tuesday, Brian Hoessler of Strong Roots Consulting wants to know how social innovation can be better supported in Saskatoon, with an eye towards building a diverse network of people and organizations around this topic. As a growing city, we have the opportunity to build our community’s capacity to tackle these challenging issues – be a part of the conversation!
If you can’t make it but want to contribute your thoughts around this topic, drop me a line! I’ll also post a summary after the event to continue the conversation.
Another mini-project I’ll be working on over the next week is a short series on planning for non-profits, using the analogy of the traditional New Year’s Resolutions. Whether it’s getting in shape or improving your programs, a lot of the fundamentals are the same, as are the pitfalls. What’s the best way to avoid having your goals fall by the wayside? Stay tuned.
I’m sure many non-profit organizations would love to find some additional funding under the tree this year, but barring that, there are some grant opportunities coming up early in the New Year to consider. New to the Saskatoon Grants section on this site are three grants from the City of Saskatoon. The first two, the Community Grant Program and the Urban Aboriginal Grant Program, support local sports, cultural, and recreational programs and are due January 15, while the Environmental Grants support environmental programs with a due date of March 1. Also due early in 2013 are applications for the Saskatoon Health Region’s Community Grants (January 15) and Letters of Intent for the Saskatoon Community Foundation’s Quality of Life grant program (February 1).
All in all, lots of opportunities to start off the New Year right! Remember that Strong Roots Consulting is available to help throughout the process, including overall strategic planning, program development, grant preparation, and program evaluation. I’ll be taking some time off during the holidays but will still be reachable by email: I’ll be back to the normal routine and available to connect by phone or in person starting January 2.
Happy holidays and all the best for 2013!
Strong Roots is continually evolving, so it makes sense that the website would reflect that change too! The section formerly known as Community-Based Research under Activities has been renamed to Research & Evaluation. The rationale for this move is explored in a previous post, but what it comes down to is that I see all of my work (not just research) at Strong Roots as being grounded in the community, and I’m becoming more comfortable with the “evaluator” title, as long as that word is footnoted with an explanation of what evaluation is to me.
On that note, besides getting a new title, the Research & Evaluation section has been expanded to further explain my approach to those activities and also links to resource pages on participatory research methods and a new one on developmental evaluation. If you’re at all wondering how research and evaluation can help your organization, take a look at those pages and drop me a line!
Under resources, the Saskatoon Grants section has also received some TLC to make it easier to navigate. Grants are now listed on separate pages by the type of funder (Collaborative Funding Partnership, Government and Foundations, Non-Profits, and Corporate – the last one includes some new additions to the list). I struggled with how to best sort these funding opportunities; my decision to go by type of funder came from the ease of categorization compared to other schemes such as type of projects funded, which could lead to the same grant being listed multiple times and be subject to change if an organization’s priorities changed. I’ll try this method for now, but may change it in the future if I figure out a better way. Of course, if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments below!
Although I have dialled back the pace of posting to the blog since returning from last week’s conference, don’t think that the website has stayed static in that time! Building on a post from September, I’ve distilled the essence of the Strong Roots approach to four elements: Connect, Empower, Change, and Share. The last one, which wasn’t discussed in the original blog post, encompasses my belief of sharing resources, namely information, as best embodied through this blog and the Resources section. The Share component of the Approach page also gives a brief explanation of the Creative Commons licence used for site content: in case you were wondering about the icon in the bottom left of each page, here’s your chance to learn more.
Two quick announcements. First, the site’s undergone a minor reorganization to make it easier to navigate, with Strong Root’s areas of focus now listed under Activities and a new Resources section. The latter is home right now to a growing list of local grant opportunities, building on my last post on the Funder’s Forum (as a result, there won’t be a part two to that post). I’ll keep adding to that list as I become aware of more opportunities.
Second, I’m heading off Sunday to Minneapolis for the better part of the week to attend the American Evaluation Association conference. In particular, I’m looking forward to attending two workshops, one on developmental evaluation and the other on using participatory methods in evaluation that do a better job at including people who are usually marginalized. I plan to post here regularly during the trip about the experience and ideas that I think are useful for readers of this blog, hopefully every day assuming a reliable internet connection. Keep a watch on this space then!
Last week, I attended a forum highlighting grant opportunities for organizations based in Saskatoon. Speakers from seven funding agencies provided an overview of their respective grant programs, with time afterwards for questions to the group and general networking. Although I imagine that this idea of bringing funders and non-profit organizations together is not new, it was the first time that I had attended such an event: as someone new to the city, it was a great opportunity not just to learn about the opportunities that existed but also to meet with representatives from non-profits in the audience.
Before provide some information about the grants available, two take-aways from the event to share:
When I started my undergraduate degree, I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I was studying psychology and my default career path at that time was to stay in school for 8-10 years to become a research professor or a clinical psychologist. However, I didn’t take that path; over those four years I decided instead to pursue a career working with the people and organizations dedicated to making the world a better place (full disclosure: I still ended up going to grad school for a Masters degree, but in a field more focused on community development and social change).
The experiences in university that helped shape my current path were primarily in a small basement office that was home to the psychology students association, on which I served for three years as a member of the group’s executive. Our mission of supporting our fellow students and trying to build a sense of community was not an easy one – for one thing, a high number of students who attended this large university campus were commuters and often did not want to stay around campus after class. Our lack of resources and constant volunteer turnover as students graduated also made long-term planning difficult.
Despite those challenges, our small association was able to make a difference. We developed some innovative academic and social events, we built meaningful connections with students, staff, and faculty, we even created a new organizational structure that made it easier for people to contribute to the growth and leadership of the association. We had setbacks and frustrations along the way, but when I graduated, I felt that our small group of dedicated individuals made a difference, if not in the world at large then at least our little corner of it.