By now so many of you have shared stories, memories, and celebrations for our 20th anniversary. We wanted to round out the year by hearing from the people who have always made IG what it is: our powerhouse staff.
We asked our team members to reflect on IG's past, present, and future. We gathered responses through virtual video interviews and in writing. The video below is a gathering of some of those responses. And you can review a mix of more written responses after the video!
Looking back on your time at IG, what’s a favorite project that you feel helped create a more resilient, equitable, and thriving world?
- We had a project that spanned multiple rural and urban cities in Nebraska, with a focus on understanding what creates and inhibits welcoming environments for New Americans. This project involved meeting with people with many different viewpoints and from many walks of life, pushing me to examine my own identity and worldview, and opening up an intentional conversation across many communities who participated in data collection. Our team was able to explore a new medium of reporting, creating a podcast that shared the results of our work with all of those who have access to Spotify. – Senior Consultant Kayla Meyers
- Many years ago, we evaluated several projects focused on collaboration across education, social services, and law enforcement systems. Each community was so unique, from several counties in northwestern Minnesota that were on the path to recovery from a devastating flood, to a suburban Twin Cities school district that was attracting new cultural groups and working to adapt their systems to better fit their community’s priorities. I loved helping the communities reflect on their collaboration and how they could do things in new and innovative ways. Many of those working relationships are still strong today, more than a decade later. – Founder & CEO Leah Goldstein Moses
- A survey of Minnesotans with disabilities over time to measure improvements in quality of life as the state moves toward integration. This project has taught me so much about the disability community in Minnesota and ways in which society could be more accessible and equitable. – Senior Writer Katherine Lymn
- I loved working with MNSure to evaluate their Navigator Program. This was shortly after the Affordable Care Act went into law and Navigators had gone through their first round of helping people enroll through the exchange. We learned so much! What made it particularly meaningful was that MNSure and our clients were very involved in the work, and eager to apply the recommendations that resulted from data collection. – Senior Consultant Courtney Clingan
- I recently reached out to a past client with an invitation to IG’s 2020 celebrations. It particularly brought back memories of a Texas road trip and my favorite “nonverbal” notations learning when everyone in the focus group started shooting fake guns in the air as a sign of agreement. Stumped me for a minute! – Chief Practice Officer Becky Stewart
What have you appreciated or enjoyed about working at IG? What’s a favorite memory?
- I have appreciated how much IG has helped me grow as a person and a professional. Through my time at IG, I have learned so many things about inequities that affect people, whether based on race, gender, class, ability, religion, or any other identities that people carry. And I’ve learned how difficult the work is to make these changes and have connected that to why it is so important for us to do the work that we do—to tell people’s stories, validate people who need it most, and understand how programs can better serve people in equitable ways. – Senior Marketing Associate Dan Goldstein
- Something I’ve appreciated while working at The Improve Group is the simple fact that I don’t loathe Mondays and genuinely enjoy “coming” to work each day. It’s easy to find meaning in IG’s work since we collaborate with so many brilliant and passionate clients. Knowing that our work contributes to a real impact on people’s lives is all I need to get out of bed in the morning. – Senior Consultant Nick Stilp
- As a new addition to IG, I have appreciated IG's culture and value of finding joy. I love how everyone is open to sharing, giving, and receiving joy in the work environment. This ranges from something as simple as asking ice breaker questions in team meetings to a friendly competition over a game of Jack Box or celebrating the holidays together. – Associate Consultant Kia Her
What’s something that has stayed the same about IG over your years here?
- IG has been and continues to be very creative and innovative; we rarely just keep doing something the same way! – Chief Marketing Officer Maria Moeller
- I have fond memories of hunkering down in meeting rooms with snacks to work through design or problem solve for certain projects. At the time it feels stressful but also there’s camaraderie and a shared purpose. It reminds me of pulling all-nighters in college. – Senior Consultant Kassira Absar
- Friendship, collaboration, and building connections. Also, IG always providing ways to develop our skills and what we are passionate about. – Business Operations Manager Jessica Schuetz
- Over the years, we have retained a very strong focus on community wisdom and engagement. The communities we’ve worked with have taught us new and more sophisticated ways to be creative, thoughtful, and innovative. For example, where we once may have leaned heavily on focus groups or surveys to get community input, we might now be more focused on creating short-term affinity groups that can address an issue more fully. – Leah
- That no matter the occasion, we always find a way to center it around food! Food connects our team in so many ways and is such a big part of our culture. Even in the midst of a pandemic that is keeping us distanced, we have still found new, creative ways to connect over food. – Dan
- Really smart staff who care deeply about why we are doing this work. – Becky
What’s something that has changed over the years?
- We’ve embraced a culture of challenging ourselves and pausing to reflect on contexts and cultures at each phase of our internal and external exploration. For example, I recently had a conversation with colleagues about disaggregating data by race/ethnicity and gender identity. We took a moment to reflect on the motivation behind the analysis, what we could truly say once we saw the results, and how to navigate reading the numbers and communicating them in a way that is respectful, insightful, and has meaning. – Kayla
- As we grew as an organization, our spaces have grown, too. – Jessica
- My first few months at IG were spent almost entirely entering survey data from boxes and boxes of survey data … a rare task these days. We had to cart them up an down an old service elevator that barely held us and one box in the old mansion we worked in. – Becky
- In the face of such uncertain times, I’ve been inspired by clients who are engaging in a collaborative strategic planning journey. I’ve witnessed a level of thoughtfulness and flexibility that could have seemed unobtainable in the pre-pandemic world. I find myself energized on a daily basis by the way people and organizations are coming together to develop innovative strategies for a new path forward. – Nick
- As I interview youth in the project I am working on, I am energized to strive to do better as an individual and professional to contribute to improving systems that support youth and dismantling systems that cause more harm to youth. I am learning so much in the project's topic area. As a learner, I enjoy learning new things and seeing growth not only in myself but also in the community. – Kia
- Playing a small part in engaging our disability community in changes to enhance their quality of life. – Maria
- Working with our team to develop the IG Storycasts. As a team member who is not often working closely on project work, it has been so inspiring and uplifting being able to have these opportunities to connect with our team members and our clients on the importance of the work we are doing and the shared value our partnerships are bringing for communities we work with. This work is challenging but seeing these connections in real life is so validating to the work we do and the value that our partnerships with clients can bring to communities! – Dan
- I miss the energy, jokes, and small interactions with folks you may not be on projects with. I also miss grabbing lunch with colleagues at nearby restaurants. – Kassira
- I miss the organic chance to connect with each other every day. Lunch, hallway, and pre/post meeting check-ins are when I would hear about what’s new in my colleagues lives, get tips for new restaurants to check out, or new movie or book recommendations. It’s challenging to carve out time for those ad-hoc updates in a virtual world!– Courtney
- Looking at hawks/eagles with Nick outside our shared window – Katherine
- I make trips to the office every other week for project work that requires it, and I find myself missing the little moments that represent our unspoken routines that come with sharing space and time together. Something as simple as turning on the lights, a responsibility that always fell to our colleague Kylie and was our “Kylie’s here!” moment in the morning, reminds me that we’re in a weird time and makes me realize how much I’ll appreciate being back together! – Kayla
- The small chats, smiling faces. And of course … our get-togethers with food! – Jessica
- The chance to fall into conversation and learn more about my colleagues and their lives through that. – Becky
- Continuing to push as hard we can to give voices and platforms to those who need it most. Leveraging our influence and knowledge as an evaluation expert, an advocate for community, and as an organization committed to equity, to challenge everyone we work with to also take on that commitment. – Dan
- I hope that IG will continue to reflect internally as an organization and externally on how we impact the world so that we are positively contributing to a healthier and more just and equitable world rather than adding to the issue. I hope that we will continue to have difficult conversations, keep communities engaged, and apply equity throughout our work. I hope that in 20 years, IG can say we did A, B, and C that led to a healthier and more just and equitable world. – Kia
- I think The Improve Group and our evaluation expertise is well positioned to contribute to the fight against racial injustice. The tragic death of George Floyd was a catalyst for systemic change and has prompted the City of Minneapolis to reallocate funding from the police into new and existing community-driven programs and services. My hope is that The Improve Group can serve as a support for measuring the effectiveness of such programs through authentic community engagement, as well as by providing community leaders with data to aid decision-making and foster program improvements. – Nick
- The world CAN be much more just and equitable. I want us to face the challenges in our world with courage and commitment in order to bring that justice and equity to life. That means truly listening to people and understanding what their words mean. The future will be radically different whether we plan on it or not—my hope is that we can help communities envision a just, equitable future and then act with intention to bring it about. – Leah
- I am optimistic about our newly revived push to be intentional about infusing equity into our work. I think often this is implied, but we often have the opportunity to make a more explicit push. This year has helped me to really appreciate the urgency of this charge; it’s not a “it would be nice if we could,” but more of our responsibility to pursue. – Courtney
- I think the experience has helped us to crystallize a more specific commitment to how we can be contributing to ending inequality and being antiracist. I’m excited to see that commitment being shaped in our current strategic plan in how we do our work and who we do it with. – Becky