Sharon is a social impact strategist who designs, facilitates, and evaluates collaborative social strategies. She’s also one of our favourite people to work with (and we’re pretty sure she likes working with us, too)! Over a recent salad pot luck, we posed some questions to Sharon.
1. Why do clients seek you out?
I’m a strategist. Clients contact me because they know I have the ability to see and think at a macro level, to see connections and opportunities that will help them focus what they want to do and hone their strategy. Clients connect with me because they know that I am going to work with them as a partner to come up with something that meets their needs and isn’t cookie-cutter.
The majority of my clients learn about me through word of mouth. They know someone I’ve worked with. Or they’ve worked with me before and they know I get them. There’s an established trust there.
2. What 3 principles best capture how you work?
Collaborative. My work involves getting contributions from people with a diversity of perspectives.
Pragmatic. Things can’t just be theoretical. No matter where you work, NFP or private sector, everyone is too busy — everyone needs something that is useful from the get go.
Adaptable – almost organic. I am always learning and building. Every project I work on is an iterative process.
3. What big idea in evaluation inspires you?
Developmental evaluation. It’s the type of evaluation that is most closely aligned with strategy. In many ways, it’s the next step after you create a strategy. It’s grounded in continuous feedback and continuous learning. It works so well for what I do because we never know what we don’t know when we start out and we learn as we go.
I think also developmental evaluation makes evaluation less daunting for the non-practitioner. You don’t need to have everything planned out when you begin — you plan as you implement. I’m not an evaluator, but I do evaluation. Many strategists don’t, and I think If they did, they might see more of the links between their strategic work and the end goals of what the clients are trying to do.
4. What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?
Educated by Tara Westover. It’s inspiring and daunting and hopeful. I put it on my e-reader the day before going on a trip – I didn’t even know anything about it and it wasn’t recommended to me. It made me feel so much respect for someone in the author’s situation, living in poverty and abject circumstances who can find their inner passion. The ability of someone to really grapple with challenges personally and professionally, and then see beyond her immediate environment, see opportunity, and have the strength to share it publicly —that’s really inspiring.
5. What’s your “back-up job”—the thing you’d be doing if you weren’t doing what you’re doing?
It’s maybe not my backup job but possibly my next career: I think I may be contractor developer in El Salvador. I am fortunate enough to have a beach house/future retirement home there. My husband and I together have designed and built one house and 2 significant renovations. El Salvador is really developing I think there’s an opportunity to really bring a fusion of styles in properties.
My other idea is to open up a pop-up restaurant in El Salvador and call it My Dinner Party. It would be just once a month: I’d open up my house to reservations and offer a set menu. It would be focused on using local ingredients and use them in completely different ways than anyone in El Salvador is used to – there are so many other ways to make salads beyond your typical iceberg lettuce with a few tomatoes on the side.
6. Why do you do what you do?
I get to work with fabulous people who are passionate and committed and see the value of what I can contribute from the get-go. And every day Is different. The people I work with are eclectic – they come from different worlds and face all sorts of challenges. It’s fun.