RADIANCE BLOG

Category: Chronicling Corona

Celebrating our community: Wild Plum Center of Longmont, Colorado

In honor of Corona’s 20th anniversary, we are celebrating the outstanding people and organizations making a positive contribution to our community.

Each month, Corona is making a $500 donation in honor of a member of our team. To kick us off in January, Matt Bruce selected Wild Plum Center. We sat down with Matt to learn more about the organization and his giving experience.

What is it about Wild Plum Center that made them stand out for you?

I believe that all families should be allowed to achieve their potential, and Wild Plum Center helps families do just that. We know from research that kids begin developing cognitively and socially at a very early age. I’ve seen it in my own kids. When they are in a nurturing, safe, and stimulating environment, like at Wild Plum Center, they have positive experiences that dramatically impact their growing brains. In addition to serving youth, Wild Plum Center serves parents by allowing them to work or go to school so they can make a better life for their families. Although there are many great community organizations here in Northern Colorado, Wild Plum stood out to me because they meet a critical need of hard-working families—when a helping hand can make a world of difference.

When a helping hand can make a world of difference.

What would you like others to know about their mission and impact?

Whereas we typically think of early childhood education in the zero to five age range, Wild Plum acknowledges that their impact goes far beyond preschool. Their mission is to prepare children for a lifetime of learning and self-sufficiency by providing a comprehensive, individualized approach to early learning and family wellness. Wild Plum is doing more than preparing kids for Kindergarten; they are preparing them (and their families) for a lifetime of learning and wellness.

You’ve noted that this was a really wonderful experience for you. We’d love to hear more.

First, I had a lot of fun thinking about which community organization I’d like Corona to support. I considered a handful of organizations, and I enjoyed learning about each one. When I decided on Wild Plum, it was a great experience chatting with Keri Davis, their community partnership director, about the financial gift Corona could offer. Keri said Corona’s donation would go directly to serving youth and families. She sent me some photos of kids in their classroom, and I loved looking at all those smiling faces.


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Corona is also donating $500 on behalf of each staff person to a charitable organization of their choice. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights into the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.




Staff Interview: Matt Bruce

This month Matt Bruce celebrates six years at Corona, during which time he has juggled many roles inside and outside the firm: director, associate, data nerd, skier, and father, to name just a few. His “career” has spanned from ski bum and hitchhiker, to natural resource technician, to his current role as a Director here at Corona.

Matt Bruce, Associate

At first glance, there may not seem to be a common thread connecting his rather disparate roles—but Matt’s love for the outdoors combined with his formal education in natural resources has put him in a unique position to study how people interact with the environment and to solve broader issues facing communities.

He was, and remains, drawn to Corona to help clients make smart, informed decisions. Through pragmatism, and often creativity, Matt enthusiastically supports clients in their efforts to make an impact.

At Corona

Matt started at Corona in January of 2013, primarily specializing in the quantitative areas of our work (e.g., surveys, demographics), but has since broadened his skills to qualitative research and other areas. While in many ways a generalist, Matt is most at home calculating advanced stats, analyzing demographics, or doing spatial analysis in GIS.

While Matt loves the variety of work at Corona, he gravitates toward those projects involving the outdoors, youth, community needs, and other community topics, where his particular skills and interests really shine.

Not surprisingly, some of his favorite and most memorable projects have been needs assessments. One such project was conducted for the City of Longmont, Colorado, where Matt helped the city identify the most pressing needs of its most vulnerable residents.

Select clients Matt Bruce has worked with while at Corona Insights.

Outside of Work

On any given day, you may find Matt riding his bike around Fort Collins, constructing hot wheel tracks (with his kids), or, when time allows, hiking, river rafting, or backcountry skiing with his family.

The Bruce clan.

Charitable organization

Matt selected Wild Plum Center for Young Children and Families as his recipient of Corona’s $500 donation.

Matt first learned about Wild Plum when he worked for the City of Longmont, organizing fieldtrips to the Sandstone Ranch Visitor and Learning Center.  Years later at Corona, when he conducted a needs assessment for the City of Longmont, he saw the need for more comprehensive help to families as a whole, not just kids. Being a parent himself, he also has perspective into the challenges of childcare, and wanted to support an organization that helps families in need.


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Corona is also donating $500 on behalf of each staff person to a charitable organization of their choice. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights into the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.


Client Interview: Sara Reynolds

As we complete our 20th year of business, we will visit with the two key elements of our work:  our clients and our staff.  We will start with someone who is both:  Sara Reynolds, the Vice President of Operations of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

Sara, you’ve been both an employee of Corona Insights and a client.  How has that happened?

I was Corona’s first employee after Kevin, maybe even before Karla, because she was just finishing up her career with Mercy Housing when I started.  I worked at Corona for two years through graduate school, and then went on to other jobs.  I hired them for research work when I was with the Colorado Municipal League, and then strategy consulting when I was at Housing Colorado.

How did you first become aware of Corona?

I talked to a career program person at CU-Denver when I started at the MPA [Master of Public Administration] school.  They said that this company had called looking for help, and I asked if it was a paid internship.  Fortunately, it was.  Kevin had a lot of clients coming in and needed help, and I had SPSS experience, so it was a good match.  I ended up working for both Kevin and Karla on projects.  It was just the three of us.

We were certainly not an established company at the time, so we appreciated your open-mindedness about working for a little startup.

Yes, I remember getting hand-written paychecks.  But I was finishing my grad program while I worked with you, so it was a mutual leap of faith to work at Corona.  I was also working as a legislative aide and in school at the time, so we were all flexible.  I worked in one of the bedrooms at your house while you were fixing it up.  I also own an old house, so I understand the process, the renovations never end. 

How did your career progress after you worked with us?

I stayed with Corona until I finished the MPA program, and then went to work for the City of Westminster.  I wanted to be a city manager but later decided that it wasn’t what I wanted for that particular phase of my life.  I then became the legislative liaison on behalf of the City to the Colorado Municipal League (CML), which led to a job there.  I worked at CML for nine years, and then went to Housing Colorado as the executive director.  I recently left that position and joined the Colorado Oil & Gas Association as the Vice President of Operations.

Are there any particular lessons that you took from Corona to your later positions?

From a research perspective, it was understanding the skill set that was needed for quality analysis.  You can’t take for granted that what you’re receiving is actually good data.  If you don’t start with good data, any analysis is worthless.  We take for granted that all data is good, but with the rise of things like Survey Monkey, that’s not necessarily the case.  It was good to start my career before that era, because we had to build good data from the ground up. 

You also learn that organizations often feel like they have to use data to support their messages, but they don’t always recognize that you don’t have to just limit yourself to the data that’s available.  My experience at Corona gave me confidence to go out and do my own research when I needed to.

On the facilitation side, I’m astonished at how many organizations don’t know how to plan strategically.  Board members come from many different backgrounds.  It’s hard to put board members through training, because they’re just too busy.  You have to take people as they are, and that’s where a skilled facilitator can pull them together to train and lead them through the strategy process.  It gives your executive director an opportunity to participate as well, rather than being the facilitator.

On the topic of collecting your own data, you told us that you have a particular memory of a project with us.  Can you tell us what it is?

Yes, I particularly remember standing on a corner directly outside of Miss Kitty’s [adult store] on Colfax doing observations while we were studying seat belt use.  [Kevin and I] eventually switched corners.

It makes for a funny cocktail story about what I’ve done for my jobs, but there was a bigger purpose.  It was an intriguing contract from the Colorado Department of Transportation that was aimed at improving seat belt use rates among African American men.  I then sat in on some focus groups that identified the stigmas of wearing a seat belt among young African American men.  It was an early experiment in reaching niche markets.  CDOT used the information to run a public information campaign that I’m sure saved lives. 

So you’re the Vice President of Operations at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) now.  What intrigued you about that position?

I’ve gone from the public to the nonprofit to the private sector.  I wanted to try something in a member-based organization that served the private sector, which was why I went to COGA.  Our members are all private organizations, but addressing public issues.

There are beautiful recreation centers, senior centers, and other things that have been built with oil and gas [severance tax] money, and perceptions of the industry are different in different parts of the state.  I’m familiar with corporate social responsibility and how private sector organizations can have positive impacts.  My background in working with local governments gave me a good opportunity to be the bridge.

In this position, you also have to have a fluency in understanding the operational elements, such as finance and project management.  In a trade association, you have to juggle many projects.  Project management is on an annual cycle and getting people onto the team who have different skills.  You then have to interface with your board on strategic vision, and also consider strategic partnerships. 

And one of the more exciting elements of working at both Housing Colorado and at COGA is identifying the number of potential partners out there.  You can’t do it all alone as a small organization.  People tend to think internally first on strategy, so you have to help people think externally. Many organizations are funded by oil and gas to pursue their mission.  When you look around, there’s a pretty big table of allies.  You have to figure that out when you work at a small organization.

We’d like to close with a couple of Corona personality questions.  If Corona Insights was an animal, what would it be?

A little bookworm comes to mind, from the Richard Scarry books.  A caterpillar with glasses.  It offers very observant commentary on issues.

And what three words or phrases best describe Corona?

First, I’d say hungry.  Hungry for the next project.  I can’t see you saying no.  You’re always taking on unusual projects that seem odd but interesting.

Second, I’d say disciplined.  Corona is disciplined and committed to taking people to the finish line.

Third, I’d say non-conforming.  You built the business the way you wanted to and were intentionally nonconformist about your approach.  We don’t value institutions the way we used to, so non-conforming is good.  You can be nimble in how you operate.

That concludes our interview.  You were a great first employee, Sara, and you’ve certainly been successful in your career since leaving Corona.  We’re very grateful to have had you on our team, and we’re proud of your success!


Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Click here to view all of our interviews. 

To stay up to date on all Corona news, and receive useful insights in the world of research, evaluation, and strategy, subscribe to our newsletter.


Corona welcomes our newest Associate, Jim Pripusich

We are delighted to introduce our newest Associate, Jim Pripusich, PhD!

Jim is passionate about explaining the causes of human attitudes and behaviors in addition to the consequences of policy and institutional change. As a political scientist by training, he has expertise in thinking creatively about answering complex research questions with quantitative and qualitative data. Continuing reading in his bio…

Welcome, Jim!


DU’s Keystone Strategic Plan leads to action

 

The 20th century model of delivering a liberal and creative arts education is inadequate to the task of developing graduates who can think broadly and critically in and out of their chosen fields.

—From the Keystone Strategic Plan 2018-2025

 

We are thrilled to celebrate the creation of the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Denver.

The creation of the College is a direct result of their strategic planning process. The exciting Keystone Strategic Plan commits the college to nothing less than the transformation of the liberal and creative arts education in alignment with the University’s transformation under DU IMPACT 2025.

 

What role will the social sciences, arts, and humanities play in a world that increasingly operates through artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and big data? A very important one. The careers and lives of tomorrow will be defined by distinctly human qualities such as ethical judgment, creativity, adaptability, agility, and storytelling.

—From the Keystone Strategic Plan 2018-2025

 

“This plan represents the best of our strategy work at Corona. We are thrilled with the resulting plan and look forward to the momentum and positive changes it creates for the students, staff, faculty, and alumni of the college,” said Karla Raines.

Read the full press release here. See the video that DU produced about the plan below.


GoodBusiness – The State of Corporate Philanthropy in Colorado

We were very excited to work with B:CIVIC, the Denver Chamber, DaVita, TIAA and the University of Denver to collect data about how businesses in Colorado are engaging with and giving to their communities. It was great to see that businesses of all sizes across Colorado are engaging in corporate philanthropy, especially at the local level. It was also interesting to see that in addition to cash donations, many businesses are offering support for their employees to donate time and money.

The report can be found here.


Mirror, mirror on the wall. Do Denver residents see themselves in arts, cultural and creative organizations?

At our I2020 presentation last week, we had a lot of great discussion about the data. One topic we discussed was representation in arts, culture and creativity. While a large majority of Denver residents in our survey believed that people like them participate in arts, culture and creativity, African American and especially Latinx residents were more likely to doubt that people like them participated. Even a small difference can be important, though, since people might use representation to infer other things about an organization and its events, such as whether an event is welcoming, whether they have the right background knowledge for an event, and whether an organization is relevant to them. Also, representation is important because it’s something that organizations have some control over, especially representation within their boards and staff.

Quantitative research is really useful for understanding the “what” of a topic. To get to the “why” though, you really need qualitative research that gives people space to explain things in their own words. We hope the results from this I2020 survey inspire Denver organizations to start digging into the “why”.

To view the presentation, click here (PDF). To learn more about Imagine 2020, including additional research, click here.

 


Imagine 2020 Data Snack

Today, Kate Darwent, PhD, spoke to an audience of over 100 arts leaders about the need to increase opportunities for Denver residents, especially African American and Latinx residents, who are hungry to participate more in arts, cultural and creative activities. The city conducted a one-of-a-kind statistically valid survey of its residents in 2017 to learn what they value about the arts, what motivates them to engage, and the barriers they face. Interestingly, residents with a strong desire to participate more face a complex web of barriers including: lack of opportunities in their immediate neighborhood, less satisfaction with the amount of information they receive, and more uncertainty about whether people like them participate in arts, culture and creativity.

The 2017 survey was a mid-point check on IMAGINE 2020: Denver’s Cultural Plan.


Corona 2017 Promotions

As we end 2017, Corona Insights would like to offer recognition to our team members who have been promoted this year. We were pleased to witness the promotions of Matt Bruce and Kate Darwent, PhD, to the position of Director, and Gregory Hornback to the position of Senior Associate.

Matt has been with Corona Insights since 2012, and has been involved in numerous projects related to natural resources, utilities, recreation, and other areas of interest. He is a leader in ensuring that the company uses sound methodologies and embraces new ones as needed.

Kate also joined Corona Insights in 2012, and she has played a key role on many Corona projects in the areas of research, strategy, and evaluation. Some of her key contributions have come in the role of advancing our work in survey research and market segmentation, with particularly strong roles in our health, arts, higher education, and philanthropy practices.

Greg joined the firm in 2015, and has been a great “swing player”, bringing his versatile skills to bear in our strategy practice, quantitative research, and qualitative research realms.

We’re always pleased to offer promotions, because they affirm many positive things. First and foremost, they mean that our team members have proven themselves at meeting our clients’ needs, and that they are providing the high quality of insights and counsel that our clients expect. Second, it means that they are continuing to make great progress in their careers, continuing to build and display their skills and assume more responsibilities. And finally, it’s an affirmation of our company and our culture that we are successfully hiring the right people, and that those people choose to stay with Corona Insights as they crystallize their personal brands and professional reputations.

So please join us in congratulating Matt, Kate, and Greg on their accomplishments, and we hope that you will see plenty more of them in coming years!


New Case Study: Summit County Health

We are excited to share a new case study about our work with Summit County, CO. This case study in particular is great for us to share as it showcases the research, and resulting use of the findings, to inform public information campaigns. Furthermore, the topic of the research, marijuana use and safety, is a relatively new area for public health research as legalization in various forms expands. Corona is proud to be a leader in this space, and more importantly, to be informing so many public campaigns.

You can view the case study here.

This research was also recently presented at the APHA Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA.