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Inspiration and Reflection in a Green Sanctuary by Susan Murphy

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.

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Posted: December 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: About planning, Around the office, Staff Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Improve Group Job Posting – Research Assistant

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?

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Posted: November 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: About evaluation, Staff Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Take a Fun Health Break at the AEA Conference

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

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Posted: October 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: About evaluation, Staff Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

5 Reasons I Am Excited About the AEA Conference Next Week

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. My home will be showcased. I love Minnesota, and am so excited for evaluators from across the world to see our beautiful community.

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Posted: October 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: About evaluation, Leah's lessons from her sabbatical, Learning opportunities, Staff Activities | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Improve Group Staff Presenting at AEA National Evaluation Conference this October

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

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Posted: September 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: About evaluation, Knowledge exchange, Staff Activities, Where are they now? | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

IG Staff Takes Pride in Receiving “Best” Award – by Susan Murphy

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

 
  

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Posted: August 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Around the office, Field notes, Staff Activities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »