We are pleased to welcome Karen Goodenough as the newest addition to our consulting team. Karen holds a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed graduate social worker. She has enjoyed a 20-year career in direct practice, senior leadership, professional coaching, teaching, and research. She is passionate about empowering organizations to use data to strategically improve their practice and decision-making capabilities. Learn more about Karen.. .
Tell us about your area of specialty.
I am a macro practice social worker, helping clients (groups, organizations and communities) function at their very best. I am also a generalist – meaning that I don’t have one particular issue/area of practice, but rather I am passionate about many issues, and care deeply about how they are all connected. The links between poverty and housing, addiction and mental health, child development, education, and the criminal justice system- and everything in between – they cannot be separated in my mind.
My specialty is the use of data to inform work. This is where my generalist-connected thinking also comes into play. When we talk about strategic planning, program development, fundraising, and research/evaluation – NONE of these can be siloed. We need data- both internal and external- each step of the way, and I believe we are most successful when we are fully informed.
What I do – is ask the right questions and help organizations find the answers that will move their work forward. Most often I am asking ‘HOW’ do we know something that we believe to be true? How do we know what the community needs, or what will work to meet that need, or what difference does it make/how are lives changed? I love to help organizations ask and answer their important questions.
What do you find meaningful about your work?
I really enjoy being a big picture thinker, and am passionate about social policy and collective impact work. So often organizations simply don’t have the capacity or luxury to step away from the constant demands and crises of their work to ask and answer the questions that would really help them be their very best. I enjoy coming in with that extra boost of capacity, with a fresh perspective to help get staff and leadership out of their day to day and thinking instead about the bigger picture.
Describe a way you’ve helped a client.
I recently worked on a study to inform child welfare leaders about the issues impacting employee retention. We know employee turnover has a high cost to both clients and systems. Leaders in child welfare across MN were wondering what factors influence employee decisions to stay or leave, to help inform their retention efforts. Research has found that ongoing supervisory training and higher quality supervision can make a big difference in retention. Realistic caseload sizes are also important. Our study found staff also want to know what’s changing in the system and they want to be connected to the conversation. Through our research we’re creating space for staff in child welfare to have their voices heard.
You’re working on your PhD in social work at the U of M. What is your area of focus?
As a practitioner and nonprofit leader, I was passionate about data-driven work. I sought a PhD so I could start answering the big questions I never had time for. For many years I have worked simultaneously in both agency leadership and in higher education, and had a hard time deciding on which side I would land. While I enjoy teaching Masters-level adult learners who want to hone their skills, I also want to stay connected to the day-to-day work in our nonprofit arena. I was thrilled to realize recently that I don’t have to choose – consulting gives me the freedom to do both!
And for fun, since it’s summer: What’s one of your best vacation spots?
My entire life my family has had a cabin in Crosslake, MN. This is definitely my favorite place in the world. No matter the time of year or the weather, it is my favorite place to relax and spend time with those I love the most – especially my 11-year-old son who is already quite the outdoorsman. I most enjoy reading a good book on the deck, boat rides (also with a good book in hand), playing tons of cards and games, hiking, kayaking, and yoga on the dock. In the summer you can often find me working “virtually” from my office on the deck.