Nathan Brown, Ph.D.

Nathan Brown, Ph.D.

About Nathan Brown, Ph.D.

Nathan Brown, TrueBearing co-founder, works primarily with organizations navigating the liabilities and opportunities inherent in times of significant change. As a psychologist, Dr. Brown brings to his work a deep understanding of the personal challenges facing today's leaders, as well as experience with the organizational strategies that nurture professional success. Dr. Brown is passionate about unleashing the power of practical, evidence-based methods in support of personal and organizational missions.
8 02, 2016

Re-visioning funder impact

By |February 8th, 2016|Evaluation, Best Practices, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized|0 Comments

When it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, it turns out to be not so good for the trees– or the forest. Jennifer Teunon, the Executive Director  of the Medina Foundation has recently written a thoughtful piece on the Philanthropy Northwest blog (reposted from National Center for Family Philanthropy) about the need for grantmakers to re-think their approach to funding for non-profit organizations. She does a great job of describing the corrosive real-world effects on grantees of the program-specific approach to funding favored by most funders in contrast to a general operations funding approach. When funders only look at the specific programs that a non-profit operates rather than its work as a whole (i.e., the infrastructure required to support the whole package), valuable staff time is bled off to respond to ever more granular grantwriting demands. On top of that added stress, program-specific funding also fragments organizations and promotes a silo mentality, sapping a non-profits’ vitality. We appreciate Jennifer’s shout-out to nonprofit leaders who are calling attention to this problem such as our friend Vu Le of Rainier Valley Corps, whose blog often takes on this topic with insight and unicorn jokes. We also appreciate  Jennifer’s recognition that an underlying factor contributing to grantmakers’ narrow focus on programmatic outcomes is the grantmakers’ need to demonstrate its own impact. As she puts it, “I believe [a grantmakers’ tendency towards a granular focus on programs] is primarily because foundations want to understand and quantify their own impact. By earmarking dollars to a specific program, many foundations hope to draw a line from the dollars they give to the outcomes nonprofits achieve.” And that cuts to the heart of the problem…  […]

5 01, 2015

Evidence-Based Decision Making — On the Fly!

By |January 5th, 2015|EBDM On The Fly|0 Comments

Evidence-based policy. Evidence-based research. Evidence-based practice. Evidence-based management. Chances are, you’ve come across at least one of these terms, and you’re aware that the Age of Evidence is upon us. Decisions must be grounded in evidence in order to be valid and effective. Facts are in. Intuition, habit, and tradition are out. As evaluators, we’re big fans of evidence, and we applaud the notion of systematically using the stuff to make good decisions. In fact, our mission at TrueBearing is to help our clients do just that: implement evidence-based decision making (EBDM). We’re thrilled to see a growing mountain of studies that carefully document the value of EBDM– this is the kind of thing that makes an evaluator’s heart race! But the EBDM term also gets thrown around a lot, with some questionable arguments about what EBDM is, how it can (and should) be used – and frankly, some of what we’ve heard doesn’t do it justice. […]

10 01, 2016

Information is even more beautiful in 2016

By |January 10th, 2016|Evidence-Based Decision Making, Data Visualization, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Visualize 2016! Over the last decade or so, strategic planning and evaluation geeks like us have been watching the dawn of a golden age of evidence-based decision making-- and it looks like that trend is only going to accelerate in 2016. At TrueBearing, we think a big part of our job to is to put actionable [...]

25 01, 2016

Trends in US Drug Fatalities

By |January 25th, 2016|Data and Statistics, Data Visualization, Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Centers for Disease Control have produced a great data visualization on the rising rate of drug-overdose fatalities in the United States over the past decade. Click on the Storypoints-- a great feature in Tableau--  to explore this endemic problem from different perspectives.

9 07, 2015

Data visualizations: An interactive tool to tell your program’s story

By |July 9th, 2015|Substance Use Prevention, Evidence-Based Decision Making, Data Visualization|0 Comments

One tool we use in our strategic planning and evaluation work with clients is called a data visualization dashboard. Dynamic and interactive, a data visualization dashboard, or “viz,” displays an organization’s key performance indicators at a single glance. More than that, a viz allows a user to quickly ask their own questions of the data, making interacting with your data painless (and even fun!). […]

6 07, 2015

The weaponization of data: With great power comes great responsibility

By |July 6th, 2015|Evaluation, Data and Statistics, Cultural Competency|0 Comments

For the past few years our friend Vu Le of Rainier Valley Corps has been publishing a terrific blog called Nonprofit with Balls. If you don’t already know Vu, the title gives you a clue about his provocative ideas. A seasoned nonprofit leader, Vu has an unorthodox take on how the nonprofit world actually works—and lots of disruptive (in a good way) ideas about how it could work better. Vu recently posted a blog entry that got our attention here at TrueBearing: Weaponized data: How the obsession with data has been hurting marginalized communities. It’s a thought-provoking read for anyone involved in the nonprofit, public or grantmaking sectors, so all you unicorns out there go ahead and click on the link to read his post. I guarantee you’ll chuckle at least twice- and you’ll get the reference to unicorns. I’ll wait. Back already? OK. For those of you who didn’t bother to click the link, here is a 30,000-foot overview of Vu’s post: “Data can be used for good or for evil.” While acknowledging the power of skillfully used data and its benefits to both nonprofits and grantmakers, Vu nails ten distinct ways in which data can be—and too often has been—used to obscure rather than to illuminate, to diminish the richness of our understanding of nonprofit performance, and to maintain the power status quo in a way that marginalizes and sometimes even pathologizes entire communities. […]

23 06, 2015

Community coalitions—the next generation

By |June 23rd, 2015|Substance Use Prevention, Strategic Planning|0 Comments

In my work with organizations, I focus on providing services to help them excel at their mission right away. But I often find myself wondering what risks and rewards may await our clients down the road, and how they can position themselves to meet them. History offers many lessons about the need for organizations to periodically re-invent themselves. Once in a while I fantasize about being a consultant to famous leaders of the past who faced golden opportunities for their organizations– like the railroad barons of the late 19th and early 20th century. They were undisputed masters of their world, and very confident in the way they perceived their mission: “We lay rail, and America takes the train.” I would love to have been able to whisper in their ears, “OK, you’ve had a good run, but have you heard of that young Henry Ford guy? Have you heard what he’s building in his garage? Just spitballing here, but maybe you want to rethink that “we lay rail” mission of yours a bit. Because if you don’t tweak your definition of yourself you’re in for a nasty surprise. Maybe instead of defining yourself strictly in terms  of rail, try thinking a little bigger. Something like ‘Whenever America makes a move, it’s on us.’ Because without a broadened mission and a shift from rail to transportation, before you know it you’ll turn into… Amtrak.” The failure of the railroad was not a lack of resources—they had more money than they knew what to do with. It was purely a failure of vision. So, how does this vision thing apply to an organization like yours? Well, let’s take one sector we work with that has opportunity pounding on its door. I refer to community coalitions, particularly those dedicated to drug and alcohol prevention. […]

28 05, 2015

Towards a healthy and drug-free lifestyle for youth: Discovering what works in your community

By |May 28th, 2015|Substance Use Prevention, Evidence-Based Decision Making, Best Practices|0 Comments

Today, hundreds of Federally-funded drug and alcohol-focused community coalitions operate across the United States, joined by many others that rely primarily upon state or private funding. The watchword these coalitions share is prevention, and the overriding challenge they live for is to offer effective support for our nation’s youth in living a healthy and drug-free lifestyle. At conferences, in online events, and in our work with such coalitions, there is a key question on everyone’s mind: “What preventive strategies work most effectively in our distinctive community, and how do we know whether we are succeeding?” As an evaluator, I think those are great questions. Really, they comprise the bottom line for any strategic effort. I also believe that these coalitions are in an excellent position to answer these questions—not in the abstract, but in terms of their own community, their own neighborhoods, and the youth they know and seek to serve. It is possible to discover what works—and what doesn’t work—to achieve a particular prevention goal in a particular community. I believe this for two reasons. […]

7 04, 2015

Moneyball- coming soon to a boardroom near you!

By |April 7th, 2015|Evaluation, Evidence-Based Decision Making, Best Practices|0 Comments

In case you somehow missed it, Moneyball is a 2011 movie based on the book by Michael Lewis. Based on a true story, it depicts a baseball team, the 2002 Oakland Athletics, that found itself unable to compete with teams that had three times their team payroll. Facing the collapse of his club, manager Billy Beane realized that relying on the traditional insights of scouts simply wouldn’t result in a competitive team given the budget the A’s had available. Instead, he turned to the most unlikely of advisors, a statistician who never played baseball but who had a deep understanding of two things: 1) what measurable events best predict wins (primarily runs scored), and 2) what individual performance statistics predict those runs. Using the power of data, Beane could identify low-cost/high impact players that scouts overlooked. The result (spoiler alert!): this radical “Moneyball” approach rocketed the underdog Oakland A’s into the playoffs– at a fraction of the salary of the teams they competed against. It’s an inspiring story, with potential application in many fields (no pun intended!). The Moneyball approach is starting up in several sectors: you may have heard of evidence-based policy (government) or evidence-based practice (medicine and mental health). We prefer “evidence-based decision making,” characterized by a potent strategy to make effective decisions through the use of data. The ideas in Moneyball relate to key decisions that leaders face. […]

31 01, 2015

The Opportunity Index

By |January 31st, 2015|Data and Statistics, Evidence-Based Decision Making|0 Comments

We’re always on the lookout for great sources of useful data, and particularly sources that visualize information in visually arresting ways. So we are really pleased to be able to share one such resource: the Opportunity Index. The Index is a website sponsored by the national coalition Opportunity Nation. Offering snapshots of the educational, economic and civic opportunities available across the country, the Index is capable of drilling down to the state and county levels to provide a remarkably nuanced picture. Fair warning: Do not click on the link to the Index unless you have some free time, because I promise that you will find it difficult to tear yourself away from this fascinating site! […]