News & Noteworthy

EVALCORP's Origin Story

Looking Back as We Move Forward

As our firm concludes our yearlong 20th anniversary celebration, I reflected back on how EVALCORP began. I have long held an appreciation for engaging stakeholders, using data to inform decision-making, and strengthening communities through participatory evaluation. Making a difference and “Measuring What Matters” began decades ago when I was fortunate to have had incredible mentors and early career opportunities that inspired me to found EVALCORP.

Early Mentorship

While earning my degrees in applied social psychology at Loyola University Chicago, I practiced what I was learning by working for the criminal justice system in Cook County. During this time, my experiences led to a strong desire to create a consulting company that made an impact. The benefits of working with teams to bring diverse perspectives and different areas of expertise to my work was key. I witnessed first-hand that so many individuals and families overlap our substance use, justice, mental health, child welfare, and other systems. It was clear that community members receiving public services across multiple systems are better served through integrated needs assessment, evaluation, and planning services. As such, I was determined to create an agency that would leverage useful data and teamwork to enhance people’s lives.

In my early career, I was incredibly fortunate to have been mentored by Dr. Arthur Lurigio. Not only did he believe me to be more capable than I believed myself to be, but also provided me with years of leadership, project management, and consulting opportunities. EVALCORP, and ultimately, my entire career was made possible by his trust and guidance. Dr. Lurigio also encouraged me to teach early on. I spent 7 years teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in both the criminal justice and psychology departments at Loyola, where I learned that I am a teacher at heart. He also taught me to write, never burn a bridge, and appreciate the interconnectedness of our mental health and justice systems. I am forever grateful for his wisdom and unconditional support.

Business Mentorship

After my time in graduate school, I was eager to continue my work somewhere with more sun and moved to California. Soon after, I was unsure of what to do next. I loved training, consulting, and applied research, but wasn’t clear on how to best use these passions in a place where, candidly, I didn’t know anyone. I began interviewing for jobs up and down the state of California, and as good fortune would have it, my brother strongly encouraged me to take part in a business mentorship course with Keith Cunningham in Austin, Texas. I agreed, and this decision was one of my life’s best.

I knew I wanted to have an evaluation consulting business ‘someday’ but truthfully had no business acumen. In short, they don’t teach what you must know in order to create and sustain a business in psychology doctoral programs. To this day, I credit Keith for what EVALCORP has become. The gift of his mentorship over the past 20 years has provided opportunities that have allowed EVALCORP to attract an amazing team, partner with amazing clients, and thrive even during the tough times.

A select few Keithisms woven into the DNA of EVALCORP are:

  • Hope is not a strategy. Be intentional.
  • Reputation is everything. Stay committed to excellence.
  • Thinking in the form of powerful questions is a game-changer (e.g., How might we? What is the one thing that would make the biggest difference right now? What would it need to look like in order to achieve it? What don’t I see?)
  • You cannot change or improve what you don’t know.

Looking Ahead

Through the wisdom of my mentors and the talent of our team, EVALCORP has evolved into a nationwide measurement and planning consulting organization that has the honor of serving clients from coast to coast. We’re proud to say that we have numerous agencies that have been partnering with us for many years.

We continue to be awed and inspired by the work our client organizations do for communities across the country. In partnership with our clients, EVALCORP fulfills its vision to create healthier and safer communities. Our team takes this mission to heart every day.

We look forward to building on our 20-year foundation in partnership with the agencies and communities we serve.

With heartfelt thanks,

Kristen Donovan, Ph.D.
President & CEO

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.“

– Peter Drucker

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