In spite of her extensive expertise in community development, juvenile and adult criminal justice, and public health, Lisa Osterman rarely misses an opportunity to learn something new. “We get to meet and work with the most interesting people,” Lisa says of her role as Director of Strategic Initiatives at Community Solutions, Inc. “They turn to us for expert assistance, but the only way to really help them is to learn from them.” Lisa knows that sustaining an attitude of continuous learning requires respect, humility, patience, inclusion, and curiosity. “Some of these values are easier to exercise than others,” she says, “but I know they are all critical to the success of the work I do.”
Lisa joined CSI in 2006 after serving as Director of Planning and Measurement at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Prior to that, she worked as a research and evaluation consultant on a number of projects in the youth development and education sectors. The opportunity to work with—and learn from—a variety of clients and stakeholders was one of the things that drew her to the firm. “I liked that CSI wasn’t pigeon-holed into one particular sector or type of community,” she says. “I knew getting to work with a variety of clients in a variety of sectors on a variety of projects would be very motivating for me.”
Her experience at CSI has not disappointed. “We work with all kinds of people in all kinds of settings who know so much, and we learn from them in order to understand them and help, “Lisa says. “We have principles, tools, and techniques that can be applied to great benefit in many settings, but we need to learn about our clients, their needs, and the context in which they work in order to identify the best way to serve them. So, it is a lot of listening, thinking, researching, discussing, and learning—which are all the things I value in my work.”
Lisa’s rich history of work in community development and organizational capacity-building and expertise in social research, system and program evaluation, performance measurement coaching, and strategic planning made her a natural fit for a firm with a “helping people help others culture” (as she describes it). “All the work we do centers around the idea that there are lots of people doing great work to improve their communities,” she says, “and they want a fresh perspective or different approaches to making their work even better. We help organizations, systems, and collaborations figure out how to strengthen their work, increase their impact, and expand their reach.”
Still, Lisa is quick to point out that clients are not the only ones to benefit from relationships with CSI. “People come to their work for diverse and interesting reasons, they have unique priorities, concerns, motivations, beliefs about what works, et cetera,” she says. “Gaining insight into clients’ perspectives on these things adds significant value to the work of someone who values continuous learning the way Lisa does. “Our job is to understand our clients and their partners and develop strategies that engage them on intellectual and emotional levels,” she says. We want them to be satisfied with the results that are achieved with our assistance, and also to feel good about the process – like they learned new things, stretched and grew as an individual, built their team. But the same goes for the CSI staff – we also learn, stretch, grow, and build our team through the work we do.”
Lisa Osterman holds a graduate degree in Applied Sociology with a concentration in Research and Evaluation from the University of Indianapolis and a B.A. in Religion, also from the University of Indianapolis. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis and is a member of the American Evaluation Association, Indiana Evaluation Association, and Alpha Kappa Delta International Honor Society. Lisa is the author several scholarly journal articles.