The staff of IMPACT Planning Council is pleased to exhibit a dynamic collection of Donna Lexa student art in our conference room.

Pictured are Jean Skogman and Holly Berg, of Donna Lexa staff.

Pictured are Jean Skogman and Holly Berg, of Donna Lexa staff.

Donna Lexa’s mission is, “to promote creativity, dignity and community for people with special needs through art.” The artwork is an uplifting backdrop for the many meetings that take place in the conference room!Pictured are Jean Skogman and Holly Berg, of Donna Lexa staff. Jean and Holly are standing in front of a painting entitled “Donna.” At the end of art classes, students use their remaining paint from individual pieces to contribute to a collaborative piece with a theme. Some of the collaboration pieces, all titled “Donna” , are contributed to for months. The theme of this “Donna” piece was circles.


Hello! My name is Eduardo Castro, and I was fortunate enough to be an intern at the IMPACT Planning Council this summer. As a recent graduate of Bowdoin College interested in entering the non-profit sector, IMPACT offered a great chance to learn about research and evaluation, and also see firsthand important work that is being done to improve the lives of Milwaukeeans.

Milwaukee Public Library staff runs a program in a Milwaukee County Park after a summer meal is served.

Milwaukee Public Library staff runs a program in a Milwaukee County Park after a summer meal is served.

I contributed to a number of projects for IMPACT. I worked to reorganize and revamp the IMPACT website. I created a database of every project IMPACT has conducted, complete with information about funders, keywords, and subjects. This database will allow projects, reports, and presentations to be easily searchable on the new website. In addition, I was able to accompany IMPACT staff during a focus group of youth care workers. My notes and analysis of the focus group will be used by the UWM School of Continuing Education to help tailor trainings for workers and organizations that cater to youth in Milwaukee.

The major project I worked on this summer was the Summer Reading Initiative. Studies have shown that children can lose up to two months worth of instructional time from the previous school year if they do not read over the summer. The loss in reading ability, known as the “Summer Slide,” disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged youth and poses serious consequences to the city of Milwaukee. However, one solution has consistently shown to stop the regression: children who read 6 or more books do not fall victim to the Summer Slide.

In an effort to combat the summer slide, IMPACT Planning Council alongside Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Public Libraries, Hunger Task Force and others, have worked to put books into the hands of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable children. The Faye McBeath Foundation has funded over 26,000 books to be given away at free summer meal sites and awarded several “mini-grants” to local organizations to enhance their existing summer learning programming, and pilot new ideas to bring books to kids.

I supported the Summer Reading Initiative by providing assistance to my supervisor and Summer Reading Coordinator, Carrie Koss Vallejo. I managed mini-grant applications, mapped the reading programs sites in Milwaukee, and helped Carrie brainstorm possible outcome measurements for each organization based on their grant applications. I had the opportunity to conduct a site visit at the Burnham Park free summer meal location to see book distribution. My notes from the site visit were condensed into a report and will be presented to the funders of the Initiative.

Carrie also put me to work moving 40 lbs. boxes of books. Luckily for me (and my back), this was only a one-day affair.

My experience this summer with IMPACT has been incredibly rewarding. I have acquired practical skills that I will continue to use in my career, such as useful tips about using Excel and presenting data and findings. Particularly with my work on the Summer Reading Initiative, I witnessed how data and evaluation shape the implementation of a program. The entire staff has done a tremendous job in providing support and were committed to my experience at IMPACT. Overall, I gained a unique appreciation of the role of data and evaluation in the non-profit and public sector. I highly recommend people interested in research and evaluation to pursue an internship with IMPACT.

You will not be disappointed.

The path that led me towards interning at IMPACT Planning Council is one of serendipity.  As one job opportunity ended and the next seemed doubtful, I ended up at the Marquette University Job Fair, not expecting much of anything at all. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I met Lori Boesel of IMPACT at the job fair, and learned about this internship opportunity.

Let me start from the beginning.  I, Claire Seigworth, graduated from Marquette University two years ago with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Spanish Literature.  During my first job after graduation, I learned more about the field of monitoring and evaluation and realized that this really interested me.


Intern Claire in front of artwork by AWE.

Intern Claire in front of artwork by AWE.

During my time at IMPACT, I learned various skills and used new tools including:

Tableau, Survey Monkey and Donor Snap. I also joined the 21st century by learning how to tweet.  While seemingly disparate, these tools taught me different ways to convey important information.  Especially nowadays, information is power and how people communicate is as important as what people say.  Programs such as Donor Snap, Excel, and Survey Monkey are about how to collect and use information internally.  Equally important is how to share the information in a concise and engaging way, which is one of the main lessons I during my internship.

However, as communication and information sharing are increasingly digital and globalized, there is something to be said about in-person communication and relationships.  Reflecting upon my experience here, what really stands out to my about my internship was the way the staff went out of their way to welcome and embrace me, and the time they took out of their schedules to teach me new skills.  As the intern, the pressure is on me to be useful to organization in which I am interning, and from this perspective, it is easy to forget that they want to be useful to me.

I know that my experience here will lead me to a new set of opportunities that I cannot even imagine at this point.  I have worked in various positions and in different countries, and what I have learned is that what really makes a deeper impact beyond all the obvious things gained from internships and jobs, is the relationships that are built. Of course the essential skills, methodologies, and services in the field are needed to achieve the stated purpose and goals.  However, from the perspective of someone starting a career in the social services field, success is being able to work together to reach a common purpose.  I am excited to head to my next position in El Salvador and take these lessons with me.

Imagine a city where every child reads at grade level and returns to school in the fall prepared to start the school year where they left off. Imagine the impact on our community and economy when children are performing at or above grade level. Reading over the summer can prevent summer slide and bring all children closer to this goal. This is our vision.

The risk of summer slide – the loss of knowledge and skills learned during the school year – is a serious problem. We know that children who don’t read over the summer lose approximately two months of school progress. This loss is more common among boys, children in low resourced neighborhoods and children from low income homes. This loss is cumulative. Research shows this loss accounts for up to 80% of the achievement gap between low and high-income students.Image

This summer, a new community effort spearheaded by the Faye McBeath Foundation and joined by the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Recreation, Hunger Task Force (HTF), IMPACT Planning Council, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Metroparent,and others will get books into the hands of those who need them most. 

This commitment will stress the importance of reading in some of the hardest to reach areas of the city – places where poverty is widespread and most children receive their meals for the day at a Free Summer Meal Site. This effort will bring the library to them. It will ensure access to interesting and appropriate books, and provide adult guidance for selecting reading materials that interest children. Every child deserves this opportunity.

Starting June 23rd, Free Summer Meal Sites will begin serving thousands of free meals in parks and on playgrounds throughout the area. We know children who lack access to food also likely lack access to books. To meet this need, MPL will visit a different Milwaukee Recreation playground each day – Mitchell Park, Carmen Park, Merrill Park, Woodlands playground and Modrzejewski playground – Monday through Friday with library books, read alouds and book-related programs from 2:30 to 4:00 pm throughout the summer. Free books will be given to children who spend time reading at the sites. HTF will also distribute thousands more free books at other meal sites thanks to a donation from New Threads and United Way of Greater Milwaukee.

Reading is fundamental to success in school and life. With 43% of our city’s children living in poverty, we must all ask what we can do to help kids read this summer. Here’s how you can help:

Scott Gelzer, Faye McBeath Foundation; Paula Kiely, Milwaukee Public Library; Sherrie Tussler, Hunger Task Force; Nicole Agresano, United Way of Greater Milwaukee; Kathleen Pritchard, IMPACT

Note:  This piece was originally published as an Opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, on June 21st, 2014.  The photo is new to this post.  Photo credit Brooke VandeBurg.


 (From top left: Shipi Kankane, Anael Ngando, Crystal Coker & Bailey Murph)

Over the last several months I have had the honor of being a Graduate Education Diversity Intern (GEDI) with the American Evaluation Association. During that time, I have worked at IMPACT Planning Council, and worked with and among some of the hardest working people I have ever met. The experiences I’ve had are beyond what I had imagined when I first signed on. And the people I’ve met, I will never forget. (Of course, that is because I’ve connected with most of them on LinkedIn. A skill every professional must learn to master.) So, as you may imagine, I am sad to go but feel so lucky to have served for an agency I feel is serving the community with integrity, humility and respect.

 A central component of my internship, touched on in a past blog post, was cultural responsiveness and how to be a culturally responsive evaluator. I have grown to understand that, while it seemed easy to understand in the various trainings I had received through the process of the year; the concept of culturally responsive evaluation (CRE) is really something we as evaluators must be intentional about. At one point, the staff I work with at IMPACT Planning Council asked me to put together a presentation on CRE which was then followed by a short discussion. During my presentation, I talked about being aware of my identity and the biases I carry with me every day. Identity is so complex and there are many facets of it that can change so this was one core part of my presentation. The presentation sparked a discussion about IMPACT’s work and how they had incorporated CRE in their evaluation projects, which I had identified. More importantly though, the staff was not just interested in me pointing out their successes, but they were interested in knowing about areas in which they could improve. This is the question I hope more agencies will seek to answer in the future, especially given the unique populations we work with and that we’re located in the City of Milwaukee.

 Working in Milwaukee is especially interesting in regard to personal identity as Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. As a woman of color, it’s not uncommon to be one of few if not the only person of color in the room at a meeting where public health professionals are talking about the health of low income people of color. Milwaukee is a place that needs radical social change and would benefit a great deal if more people employed principals of CRE. It is my personal belief that being aware of our identities, our biases and how we interact with those of a different color, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. is crucial to bringing about positive change and really working toward making the communities in which we live sustainable and equitable for everyone.

 Luckily, the GEDI program has successfully produced two graduates from IMPACT Planning Council who have that opted to stay in Milwaukee and share our wealth of knowledge. I am happy to say that I will be working with United Way of Greater Milwaukee as a Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow for the next two years. During that time, I will work on programs and initiatives to address infant mortality. I can’t imagine a better way to employ the skills I have obtained as a GEDI.

 I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

photo  I am Megan Carlson and I will be graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May, 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and in Sociology. I    have had the great honor and privilege to intern with IMPACT Planning Council since January 2014. It’s amazing what they say about networking and how it is who  you know, because I connected with Julie Whelan Capell, the Director of Planning and Development here at IMPACT Planning Council socially, and that’s how I  found out about the internship program at IMPACT.

  My experience was wonderful. I learned several new skills and got to dip into a number of different projects; expanding my knowledge of how research, analysis, and  data works and in general gaining a greater knowledge of services and needs in Milwaukee. I acquired skills in choosing appropriate references, creating graphs and  in interviewing.

  One of the projects I worked on most intensively was the grandfamily housing project. In 2011 the Villard Square library on Milwaukee’s north side was rebuilt with apartment units above. The apartments were designed to cater to grandfamilies, which are families where children live with their grandparent(s). After a few weeks of doing research on the library, creating charts to go along with raw data and other forms of data research and analysis, I visited the Villard Square site.

The modern facility offers many amenities to its residents, including access to the Milwaukee Public Library on the first floor. There is a movie theater, a community room, and an exercise room for residents. Also based within the apartment building is a social worker from the Jewish Family Services (JFS) who helps the residents with a variety of things. I had the opportunity to help interview Freddie Viel, the JFS social worker. Freddie and JFS help with rent assistance when required, address resident concerns and organize resident programming (for example, hosting a Holiday Party, Grandparent Month celebration and dinner, and pumpkin carving). It was obvious from meeting with Freddie that she places high value in community building. She described success to us as being able to develop a sense of community with the residents.

Contributing to the Villard Square Report was one of my highlights of this internship. I enjoyed this intern experience thoroughly and completely. Working with the people in this small office has been the best part of my experience here at IPC.  If I had to sum up the staff in this office in one word it would be: passionate. It has been an honor to get to work alongside people who truly are passionate for the work that they do. It is both inspiring and encouraging. As I am graduating and preparing for whatever lies ahead for me, I want to be able to say I love my work and am passionate about what I am doing too.

The American Evaluation Association has chosen IMPACT Planning Council as a site for its Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program that provides paid internship and training opportunities during the academic year. The GEDI program works to engage and support students from groups traditionally under-represented in the field of evaluation. The goals of the GEDI Program are to:

  • Expand the pool of graduate students of color and from other under-represented groups who have extended their research capacities to evaluation.
  • Stimulate evaluation thinking concerning under-represented communities and culturally responsive evaluation.
  • Deepen the evaluation profession’s capacity to work in racially, ethnically and culturally diverse settings.

Interns may come from a variety of disciplines including public health, education, political science, anthropology, psychology, sociology, social work, and the natural sciences. Their commonality is a strong background in research skills, an interest in extending their capacities to the field of evaluation, and a commitment to thinking deeply about culturally responsive evaluation practice.

Breadth of Experience:  At IMPACT Planning Council, the GEDI intern will experience the breadth and depth of evaluation, from planning, to execution, to reporting. The intern will be exposed to the range of obligations of an evaluation professional. Interns will be integrated into IMPACT Planning Council, with the majority of time devoted to activities befitting an evaluation professional, albeit a novice one.

Culturally Responsive Evaluation: The GEDI program incorporates Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) methods throughout the program.  IMPACT Planning Council believes that culture and context are inherent considerations in all evaluation and look to the GEDI intern to provide continuing education to both our staff and our clients on issues of culture and context and their role in evaluation practice.

Work Hours:The Intern will work approximately 2 days per week,mid‐September through mid‐June with the exception of the weeks during which the intern has a training obligation as part of the internship (see next section), and holidays/vacations as negotiated between the Intern and IMPACT Planning Council. 

Travel and Flexibility:  The Intern will be expected to attend four separate training programs:

1.   Approximately 5 days in August, before starting the internship

2.   Approximately 1 week in October for the AEA annual conference

3.   Approximately 4 days in the winter for the GEDI winter retreat

4.   Approximately 4 days in June for the AEA Summer Evaluation Institute

In addition,if the intern is attending university classes, the work schedule will be flexed in order to accommodate these obligations.

Payment:The GEDI intern will be awarded an$8,000stipendovertheinternshipcycle.  In addition, all costs for the intern to attend AEA‐arranged training,mentoring,travel,and registration for all components of the GEDI program will be covered. 

To apply:  All interested candidates should review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) before applying.  To apply, download the GEDI Application and return all requested materials via email as described on that document on or before Friday, June 6, 2014