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Heidi Gegax on Creating a Consultants Collaborative

Hi, my name is Heidi Gegax and I am a Minneapolis-based independent evaluator.  In my business, I focus on clients who work with youth in out-of-school time programs.  Most of the work I do is solo, which leaves me craving professional development without the cost and time needed for conferences or workshops.

Rad Resource: Create a Consultants Collaborative

I wanted meaningful interactions with other independent evaluators.  As I talked to another consultant, I asked her if she wanted to get together occasionally to talk shop and share professional insights.  She told me of a collaborative she belonged to years ago.  It was a group of women qualitative evaluators, and they called themselves “Quality Women Who Don’t Count”.  Since I wanted to network with evaluators and youth development practitioners as well as men, I decided that name would not be too inclusive, but I did want to start a collaborative.  She and I shared our list of contacts, and invitations were emailed to a small group, inviting all to a centrally located coffee shop for the Twin Cities Consultants Collaborative.  All were interested and we began our first meeting by introducing ourselves and talking about our areas of expertise.

After a few sessions of talking about what we needed professionally from such a group, we created a list of topics and each member selected session(s) to arrange a guest speaker or to lead us through the discussion. Those meetings included social networking, establishing your business as an LLC, legal contracts and work/life balance.  When we looked at the topics we had chosen, the focus fell into the following topics:

  • The business of independent consulting
  • Professional development
  • Tools of the trade

What is really cool about this group is that we have enough variety in our areas of expertise that we complement each other well.  Many of us have submitted proposals together.  Expanding our network has taught us many things about the business of consulting as well as provided an outlet for professional development.  The group started as consultants around youth development, but we are currently expanding this network to include other areas such as marketing and web development.   This will enhance everyone’s experience and round out some professional needs as well as satisfy our need for “critical mass”.

I have come to depend on this network of fabulous individuals who challenge and support me, enlighten my work, and make me feel a little less lonely in the world.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

1 thought on “Heidi Gegax on Creating a Consultants Collaborative”

  1. Hi Heidi,

    Great suggestion! In the context of consulting and evaluation firms, this typically isn’t as big of an issue, since the colleagues you work with could serve in a professional development role (such as the notion of “shadow consulting”). But, especially when you’re independent, other people possess an amazing amount of information and resources that could really assist in bettering yourself and your practice (and you could equally contribute to the group). So, it’s mutually beneficial for everyone!


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