Fall Newsletter
In Brief

Spotlight on Projects

GRG is continuing work on our evaluation of the MetroWest Tobacco Coalition, funded by the MetroWest Health Foundation. Our qualitative evaluation is entering its second year.

We also just began work for one of our former clients, the Institute of International Education, on one of their Fulbright programs, the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant program. 

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Most projects provide monetary compensation for participants' time and effort. The amount of the compensation depends on the particular project.
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GRGers Come to Cambridge for Annual Staff Retreat
Every year, GRGers convene in Cambridge for our annual staff retreat. Our meeting locations have varied over the years, but this year we transformed our conference space into a cozy living room, complete with couch and comfy chairs, scented candles, table lamps, and penguin accents. In addition to discussions about values (personal and corporate) and an exercise in appreciations, we had an excellent discussion about the types of people necessary to build an effective team. We used the Training for Change team types as our starting point. We each categorized ourselves as one of the following:
  • Ideas people - those who generate lots of ideas and are adept at seeing the big picture
  • Relationship people - those whose action tend to benefit the group as a whole and are driven by relationships
  • Data people - those who want to see all the information before coming to a decision
  • Action people - those who like to act quickly and enjoy rising to challenges
Unsurprisingly, GRG has quite a few data people, but we've also got our fair share of ideas, relationship, and warrior folks. The key to continuing to build a strong team is identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type. It's always nice to acknowledge and recognize what each member of our team brings to the table.
No GRG retreat would be complete without a little bit of outdoor adventure, so after our staff reflections (and a fabulous grilled cheese potluck lunch) we headed outside for a jaunt in the sunshine along the Charles River.

Fall 2015  
A Message from the President

It's autumn again in New England. Tell-tale signs are changing foliage, apple picking, everything pumpkin, and the GRG staff retreat (see article below for more on the staff retreat).  
Fall is also conference season, and GRG has been present at a few very interesting ones so far this season. Over the past eight years, GRG has conducted evaluations of scholarship and college access programs. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of co-facilitating with our director of research, Colleen
Manning, three different workshops on program evaluation for the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) annual conference in beautiful Charleston, S.C. We had been asked by
 NSPA's executive director, Amy Weinstein, to present an evaluation track, because there was increased interest by NSPA's members in evaluation. The first session was Evaluating Strategies for Limited Budgets, and the two afternoon interactive workshops were Jumping into Evaluation (with a focus on developing a logic model and using it for evaluation) and Assessing Your Organization's Readiness to Conduct Evaluations and Helping Move the Process Along. One of the activities was having workshop attendees fill out an assessment and participate in dot voting. Not surprisingly, they gave themselves the lowest number of points in evaluation planning.
We also had the
opportunity to hear a range of speakers on
various topics related to scholarships. A keynote speaker, Jonathan Brennan, spoke about The Role of Non-Cognitive Competencies in College Student Retention and Graduation. The competencies he listed were:  emotional intelligence (knowing and managing your emotions), responsibility (an internal locus of control), hope (ability to visualize your goals and see yourself as succeeding, grit (persisting despite obstacles - which is a better predictor of high school retention than IQ, test scores, or grades), growth mindset, and conscientiousness. I was particularly interested in these competencies, especially since GRG is assessing these as part of our evaluations for a few different clients working with a range of students and teachers in formal and informal education settings. It's been interesting to see how these competencies have taken hold in the past few years. I expect many future evaluation plans will include assessment of these competencies, at least in some part. 

'Irene' signature
Art for Change Launches in North Adams, MA
GRG recently began its evaluation of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)'s IMLS-funded project, Art for Change. Art for Change's first feature, It Takes a Village, is located in MASS MoCA's Kidspace, a child-centered art gallery that combines professional exhibition space with a hands-on studio where kids can both create and study art. Kidspace and MASS MoCA have partnerships with both the North Adams Public Schools and the North Berkshire School Union, so kids have the opportunity to visit the museum frequently and teachers are aided by curriculum-based gallery visits.
Art for Change is a four-year project that aims to help kids build positive habits by exploring a new theme each year. This year's theme is Empathy, and will be followed by Optimism, Courage, and Problem Solving. Each year's theme builds on the one from the year before.

GRGers went out to North Adams this month to observe both the fantastic art installations and the kids themselves, as they thought about what it meant to be empathetic. During their visit, Irene and Karen were able to watch kids hypothesize why others might be feeling a certain emotion and were able to hear about the work some of the artists in residence have designed for the students. Our evaluation is measuring the extent to which kids learn about empathy, and we are helping MASS MoCA develop their own internal evaluation capacity. 
How to Build the Perfect Grilled Cheese
During our annual staff retreat last week, we organized a grilled cheese potluck for lunch. A debate raged over the merits of using a panini press versus an electric skillet -- though there are still a few holdouts, most GRGers agree that frying anything in butter makes for a superior sandwich. Armed with a pound and a half of Irish butter, here are our favorite combinations:
  • Brie, fig jam, and Granny Smith apples
  • American, caramelized onions, and bacon
  • Cheddar, tomato, avocado and grainy mustard
  • Brie, apple, and caramelized onion
  • Havarti and artichoke
And, our all time favorite:
  • Brie and Nutella

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