The Improve Group staff held our annual office retreat on December 18th at the Como Conservatory. To a backdrop of bird song and gigantic ferns the staff gathered to celebrate, regroup and plan. And there was much to celebrate with the company expanding in size and scope in 2012. Particular highlights were a sense of pride around the new countries we worked in, innovative tools created, strong returns from our marketing and procurement efforts, and sharing our knowledge and learning new ideas at the annual American Evaluation Association conference.
Staff quickly set to work defining focus for the new year and models that would be followed to achieve new goals. We also reviewed some instruments we use, both new and past, for clarity and relevance. It was not all work though, as we managed a white elephant gift exchange and a beautiful walk through the flowers and plant-filled rooms of the Conservatory. It was just the atmosphere to refresh us on a dreary winter day. We particularly enjoyed the sloth who hung out on the tree just below our conference room balcony.
As we wrapped up we had our holiday party to look forward to that evening. Staff and their families took over the bowling alley beneath The Nook in Saint Paul. Food, bowling and lots of kids made it a joyful event for everyone.
Watch for more photos of the day to be posted soon on our IG Facebook page.
Posted: December 19th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About planning, Around the office, Staff Activities | Tags: AEA, American Evaluaiton Association, Como Conservatory, evaluation, families, IG retreat, IG staff, Improve Group, Improve Group Facebook, Leah Goldstein Moses, photos, retreat, sloth, The Nook | Comments Off
The Improve Group is currently accepting applications for a full time Research Assistant. To view the job requirements and how to apply, please click here. Applicants must submit materials by November 28, 2012 to be considered. The Improve Group recently received a Best Places to Work Award form the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Business Journal. We would love to add another talented and engaged member to our staff. Is it you?
Posted: November 9th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation, Staff Activities | Tags: application, full time position, Improve Group, job posting, jobs, Reserach Assistant, Samantha Hagel, work for the Improve Group | Comments Off
Posted: October 22nd, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation, Staff Activities | Tags: AEA Convention, American Evaluation Association, Cami Connell, Convention event, Fun Run, Improve Group, Jill Lipski Cain, Leah Goldstein Moses | Comments Off
Don't forget the pre-run stretch!
The American Evaluation Association 2012 Conference’s local arrangements committee identified fun activities to keep attendees energized and excited throughout the conference. When the group came up with the idea of a fun run, Improve Group employees jumped at the chance to volunteer to help coordinate. Jill Lipski Cain, Cami Connell and Leah Goldstein Moses brainstormed scenic routes, will wear a recognizable t-shirt and head gear, and will each lead a group at a different running pace. It’s a come-as-you-are, meet at a certain door, and run for fun event. You can sign up for this heart-healthy activity at the Minnesota Table at the convention. The run will occur at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24th. Please join us to enjoy the beautiful Fall colors in Minnesota. You can download a map of the running route here.
- Cami Jill & Leah – Our running guides
The 2012 Conference of the American Evaluation Association will be in Minneosta next week. Leah Goldstein Moses, Improve Group President and current Board Chair of the Minnesota Evaluation Association, shares her list of 5 reasons she is excited to be a part of this event:
Posted: October 18th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation, Leah's lessons from her sabbatical, Learning opportunities, Staff Activities | Tags: 5 reasons, AEA conference 2012, American Evaluation Association, Improve Group, Leah Goldstein Moses, love learning, Minnesota | Comments Off
- I love learning. That’s the #1 reason I am in this field – the opportunity to uncover and learn new things every day. The conference is a wonderful opportunity to learn the lessons of other evaluators!
- I’ll pick up new skills. Each time I go to the annual conference, I gain something that I use for years to come. For example, in Orlando (2009), I went to a session that perfectly distilled for me what hierarchical linear modeling is, and when it is used (in a nutshell: when you have a program that is likely affected by setting – for example, you want to find out whether the classroom or school a student is in makes any difference on student outcomes from a new math curriculum)—I’ve referenced those notes dozens of times since then.
- I’ll get to spend four full days with other people who love evaluation as much as I do. They will represent a full arc of an evaluation career – from students just interpreting and understanding theories to professionals with decades of experience.
- I will gather examples to bring to my clients, so they can place their findings in a broader context. One year, I went to a fantastic session on systems change that I brought back to a client who was working to establish a network in their community.
- My home will be showcased. I love Minnesota, and am so excited for evaluators from across the world to see our beautiful community.
Below is a list of our Improve Group Staff members and links to the sessions they will be presenting at the Evaluation in Complex Ecologies Relationships, Responsibilities, Relevance, 26th Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association in Minneapolis next month.
Jill Lipski Cain – Ignite Your Data and Data Collection Methods: Ignite Presentations on Better Data and Best Practices
Danielle Dryke, Deborah Mattila & Stacy Johnson – Longitudinal Studies: Getting the Data You Need and Working With the Data You’ve Got
Elizabeth Radel Freeman – Moving Beyond the Standard Bar Graph: Data Visualization Basics for Evaluators
Stacy Johnson – Reception and Poster Exhibition
Leah Goldstein Moses & Samantha Hagel – Improving Evaluation Practice Management During Chaotic Economic Times: Three CEOs Reflect on Strategic and Innovative Diversification, Budgeting, and Employee Support and Development
Susan Murphy & Leah Goldstein Moses – To Bid or Not to Bid…that is just ONE of the Questions: Practical Tips and Tactics to a Successful Approach With Requests for Proposals
Elizabeth Radel Freeman & Stacy Johnson- Managing Evaluation Projects From a Distance: Strategies, Tips and Tools
Rebecca Stewart – Evaluation in Foundations: Why is it Sometimes Harder to Give than Receive?
Rebecca Stewart – Image Grouping: A New Pictorial, Participatory Method for Data Collection
Posted: September 26th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation, Knowledge exchange, Staff Activities, Where are they now? | Tags: AEA conference 2012, conference presentations, Danielle Dryke, Deborah Mattila, Elizabeth Radel Freeman, Evaluation conference, IG staff presenting, Improve Group, Leah Goldstein Moses, Minnepapolis Convention Cnter, Rebecca Stewart, research, Samantha Hagel, sessions, Stacy Johnson, Susan Murphy | Comments Off
Leah holding 2012 plaque
Danielle, Jessica and Susan
The Improve Group was honored to receive a 2012 Best Places to Work Award from the Twin Cities Business Journal at a luncheon in the Minneapolis Hilton yesterday. President and CEO Leah Goldstein Moses and staff members Samantha Hagel, Susan Murphy, Danielle Dryke, Jill Lipski-Cain and Jessica Olson were present to represent the company and receive the plaque. To be considered for the award, organizations are nominated and then staff receives individual online surveys from Quantum Workplace. The confidential survey asks questions about their jobs in areas such as, teamwork, trust with co-workers and senior leaders, feeling valued, benefits and job satisfaction, to name a few. The Improve Group received an overall ranking of 94.72 and were pleasantly surprised to rank at number 13 out of the 30 small business winners in our first year entering.
At the luncheon, keynote speaker Ryan Estis, CEO of Ryan Estis & Associates, spoke of the fact that every business in the room was obviously doing something right. He also emphasized the important characteristics of having a higher, shared purpose, all staff knowing and understanding the core values of the company, and driving everything they do in alignment to those values.
Each winner in the small, medium and large business categories was asked to come on stage while photos of the company and information on some of the reason’s they ranked
Samantha, Leah and Jill
as best were shared with the crowd.
Reflecting on the day, staff talked about what made our company a great place to work. Number 1 – our work is interesting – we are learning and being creative every day. Following that first item, however, are a number of other workplace qualities:
“We have a great team and enjoy being together. Every single person in the office contributes to making a great workplace – they help and support each other, have fun, and constantly bring new ideas forward.” – Leah
Posted: August 24th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: Around the office, Field notes, Staff Activities | Tags: Award, Best Places to Work, Danielle Dryke, Improve Group, Jessica Olson, Jill Lipski Cain, Leah Goldstein Moses, Quantum Workplace, Ryan Estes, Samantha Hagel, Susan Murphy, TC Business Journal, Twin Cities Business Journal | Comments Off
The Improve Group, Inc. has been selected through the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal as a 2012 Best Place to Work in the small business category. Employees submitted anonymous responses to a Biz Journal survey administered by Quantum Workplace. The Improve Group was a top-scoring business in staff retention, team and manager effectiveness, alignment of tasks with goals, trust among co-workers and feeling valued.
Leah Goldstein Moses, President and CEO of the Improve Group, credits the great response from the staff to strong values held by the company. “The climate at the Improve Group is centered around people – from our business plan to our long-term strategic plan to our staff and client meetings,” said Leah. “We want our work to be more than just a job – we want it to be exciting, challenging, interesting, and fun.”
“Although we are extremely pleased to have this recognition I don’t think the employees here are too surprised,” said Susan Murphy, Outreach and Development Coordinator at the Improve Group. “We know we have a wonderful place to work, develop our skills and feel like we make a real contribution in our job. And just this week we celebrated some birthdays and recent successes with a competitive game of Cranium before a staff meeting – what more could you ask for?”
All Best Places designees will be recognized at a luncheon in August at the Minneapolis Hilton, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal will publish more about the environments at the small, medium and large business being honored in their August 24th edition.
Posted: July 23rd, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: About evaluation, Around the office, Staff Activities | Tags: 2012 Best Place to Work, August ceremony, evaluation, Improve Group, Leah Goldstein Moses, Mpls/St Paul Business Journal, Quantum Workplace, Susan Murphy | Comments Off
- Mary Gleich
I’d like to introduce myself. I ‘m Mary Gleich and I completed my B.A. in Human Services and Political Science at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. I am currently working on my Masters in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. My academic and professional interests are in Education Policy and Program Evaluation.
Prior to enrolling at the Humphrey School, I completed two fellowship programs in Public Affairs. I am a Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs PPIA Fellow and a Coro Fellow. The Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) is a national program that prepares young underrepresented adults for an advanced degree and ultimately for careers and influential roles serving the public good. As a PPIA fellow my team and I wrote a comprehensive policy recommendation regarding the Achievement Gap and the potential expansion of an innovative Charter School in Trenton, NJ. I also completed the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs which trains ethical, diverse civic leaders nationwide. Coro leaders develop skills; master tools needed to engage and empower communities; gain experience in government, business, labor and not-for-profit community organizations. As a Coro Fellow I held several major positions in St. Louis organizations including: Research Associate for the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition, a Field Organizer for a Missouri Congressional Campaign, Program Evaluator for the St. Louis Regional Health Coalition and Program Manager for the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association.
I am also a Public Affairs Officer for the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA) for the University of Minnesota. In my spare time I sing in the Cathedral Choir at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, and volunteer at my high school, Cretin-Derham Hall, leading a youth service and justice group.
My name is Jordan Hagel, and I am currently enrolled at Winona State University entering my senior year as a Business Administration major with a minor in Business Management. I have lived in Arkansas and Alaska but consider Hugo, MN as my home. I have been employed in many different areas of work including restaurants, athletics, outdoor work and business settings, giving me a wide range of work skills. At the Improve Group, I will be a summer intern working on projects hoping to gain valuable experience in a new work environment and learning skills that can further extend my credentials for the future.
I enjoy all kinds of sports, games, and anything that involves the outdoors. I am the oldest of 4 children in my family, which provides me with two jobs and never ending work, but I couldn’t be happier about that. I have been told I am a very sociable person with an up-beat personality and try to put a smile on people’s faces whenever possible. I look forward to my second internship working with the Improve Group to further my work experience and learn valuable skills that I can use in the future.
I am Kate Noble, a Saint Paul native. After studying and working in other cities and learning about global issues firsthand, I returned home to focus on developing my career in social policy. I received my B.A. in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Puget Sound in Washington State and I am now completing a Master in Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs of the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the Improve Group as an intern, I worked in a variety of educational settings including as a Bilingual Associate Educator at Minneapolis Public Schools, an English Teacher in Buenos Aires and a volunteer adult educator at local community development organizations. I am also familiar with many youth and community development program models from having spent many of my young adult years volunteering at nonprofits and working for the City of Saint Paul as a Youth Job Corps Supervisor.
My interest in evaluation is rooted in my aspiration to work towards making positive national and international changes on both macro and personal levels. I am looking forward to a summer of developing my skills in designing surveys, interviewing people, analyzing information and writing reports. I am particularly excited about my trip to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic as a Spanish interpreter for interviews that the Improve Group is conducting for one of their projects.
When I am not studying or working, I enjoy exploring far-off lands, trying and learning new things, seeing live music, cooking and eating good food and being physically active outdoors. This summer I hope to take a vacation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and train for a half marathon.
Hello I’m Sara Stalland and I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy with a minor in Evaluation Studies from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. I am a Minnesota native who received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with minors in Global Cultures and African Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an undergraduate, I studied abroad in Senegal for a year where I got my first taste of basic evaluation when I conducted qualitative research on the implementation of functional literacy programs through nonprofits and government.
With a further thirst for adventure, travel, and a little more Africa, after graduation I spent time consulting for a small private school in Cameroon. There I worked with administrators and teachers to develop better financial mechanisms, improve human resource management strategies, and fundraise. Now that I am back in school, I have discovered the evaluation field as a means to more purposefully align people with the knowledge and resources to advance and succeed.
This summer I have committed myself to being more active; I bike to work as much as possible, take yoga, and hope to go swimming and pontoon a few times on the St. Croix River. I have started a garden in the back of my apartment building and am looking forward to catching up on a variety of novels.
Posted: July 12th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: Improve Groove Newsletter, Staff Activities | Tags: Improve Groove, Improve Group, interns, Jordan Hagel, Kate Noble, Mary Gleich, newsletter, Sara Stalland, Summer Interns | Comments Off
We all need refreshers on current grammar and writing rules and expectations. The last time many of us had a writing course may have been college or earlier. After years of composing documents for business it is easy to get caught in a rut doing things the same way or doing things the wrong way.
The Improve Group staff relies on clear, well-executed documents in every aspect of our work. We write proposals, strategic plans, reports, social media content, and language for surveys and many other pieces that have to reach a myriad of audiences. So, recently a few of us refreshed our skills by attending a 2-day SkillPath Seminar, Business Writing and Grammar Made Easy and Fun!, presented by Richard Kronick. The course followed an 8-step business process:
- Get to know your readers and their needs
- Define your purpose
- Gather background information
- For larger documents, create a mind map
- Write a topic outline
- Free-write your first draft (then take a break from it)
- Edit and format to create your second draft
- Proofread to arrive at your final draft
The presenter of the seminar confirmed that writing well is a lifelong process. Meeting deadlines can make it a challenge. Here are some tips that may help: Have others in your organization edit and proof what you write (these are separate processes and should be done in separate passes through the document). Keep books or online resources for grammar and spelling handy. One new idea from the writing course was to create an editing checklist. You write down a list of challenges or common mistakes you make when writing. For example, your list can include things like: using sentence fragments, weak verbs, confusing words, or improper use of quotations or commas. Then spend time before publishing or sharing to check specifically for the items on your list.
Now tell us: How do you keep your work fresh and flawless? Do you have tricks that help you to remember common grammar or spelling mistakes? Is there a reference material you would recommend to read or add to our writing library?
Posted: May 7th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: Around the office, Knowledge exchange, Staff Activities | Tags: business writing, Eric Wong, grammar, Improve Group, Jessica Olson, professional development, professional writing, Richard Kronick, SkillPath, Susan Murphy, writing skills | Comments Off
The Improve Group is spreading the word that a new Research Analysts position is opening up and we are looking for a talented candidate to join our staff. Strong data collection and analysis, communication and reporting skills are required. Resumes need to be submitted by May 16th with a planned job start date by June 1st.
Please click here for full announcement details and how to apply.
Posted: May 2nd, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: Around the office, Knowledge exchange, Staff Activities | Tags: apply by May 16, evaluation, Improve Group, job opening, job start date, new position, professional position, research analyst job | Comments Off