Today, July 11, marks the one-year anniversary of this blog, this website, and Strong Roots Consulting as a whole. The year saw me face some challenges, but overall I’m happy with how things have turned out. I helped out with several interesting local projects, connected with a number of awesome people and organizations (both in the real world and online) and shared ideas and resources through the site and beyond. All in all I have a lot to be proud of and I’m looking forward to what will come this year!
As my professional practice through Strong Roots Consulting has grown and adapted, so has the content on this website. Most notable is a new section, Key Activities, that provides a clearer description of how Strong Roots can work with your organization or initiative, particularly in the areas of Project Support and Organizational Development. The site also has a more succinct listing of the strengths and skills that we bring to the table, clarification of how we work with non-profits, and a new page on the story behind Strong Roots. As always, I’m open to feedback on this site and my practice more generally, so please be in touch if you have something to share!
What’s on tap for the next few months? For starters, I’ll be continuing to connect with the non-profit and working-for-good sector, here in Saskatoon and beyond. Two ideas I’m considering towards that end are a survey for local change makers to learn more about the opportunities and challenges we face, and a “mailbag” feature for the blog where I’ll answer reader questions on topics related to community-based research, evaluation, planning, and program development. Another goal I’m pursuing is to continue my own professional development, especially in the area of developmental evaluation – keep an eye out for new posts on that front in the near future! Finally, I’ve been collaborating with some awesome people locally on a project that fits nicely with Strong Roots’ capacity-building focus: we’re still in the very early stages, but I’m hoping to make an announcement here before the end of summer.
Look for some more insights from this past year in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, thanks again to all my readers, colleagues, friends, and family for your support and encouragement this past year!
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.
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!