I have always been interested in the ways people work together to bring about change in communities and in organizations. My approach to consulting emphasizes adaptive capacity alongside well-crafted strategy.
In 1995, I founded Sussman Associates to pursue the kinds of projects I’m most passionate about. I work on all our projects, bringing in other trusted colleagues when clients need their talents. We have helped more than 130 community-based organizations, foundations, institutions, and agencies adapt, grow, and make a difference through their work.
My practice focuses on:
- Strategic planning
- Organizational assessment and board development
- Program design
- Evaluation, outcome measurement, and performance management systems
- Leadership coaching and group workshops
- Capacity building for managing growth and change
Early in my career, I worked in urban and community development and in anti-poverty and housing policy.
While these experiences shaped my ongoing commitment to economic, social, and environmental justice, another thread runs through my consulting practice. My graduate studies in urban planning at MIT infused my work with its theoretical rigor and respect for empirical evidence. They helped me appreciate the value of data to evaluate outcomes and improve performance.
As a Cambridge Institute fellow in the early 1970s, I wrote a letter to Lewis Mumford, the renowned urbanist. To my surprise, he answered. We met and corresponded over several years, during which I edited a collection of writings by him and his band of 1920s regionalists (Planning the Fourth Migration, MIT Press: 1976). I am still amazed by the way they foresaw the threat suburbanization posed to the future of cities and the environment.
Concerned with those issues I joined the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Group in the late 1970s, playing an active role in crafting Massachusetts’ groundbreaking community development finance policies. I became the founding executive director of the state’s Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), a post I held for 15 years.
Beginning in the 1990s I saw the need to invest in “people-based” programs that work in tandem with “place-based” community development strategies to address the needs of children, youth, and families. I played a pivotal role in launching the Children’s Investment Fund, and led it for five years. The Fund was the nation’s first development finance institution to focus exclusively on meeting the physical capital needs of early care and education programs.
Most recently I have worked with clients engaged in cross-sector multi-organization collaborations that strive to generate a community-level collective impact. What’s most promising about these efforts is that they recognize the complex cause and effect nature of poverty, climate change, and health disparities, which opens the way to solutions that cut across disciplinary and organizational boundaries.
Fundamentally I consider myself a student of organizations, large and small. And I have learned that effective organizations—those that are mission-driven, high-performing, effectively led, and able to change from within—are essential to changing the world. That’s why I do what I do.