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Announcing the Community Data and Research Lab at the Johnson Center

by Teri Behrens

The Community Research Institute at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy is now the Community Data and Research Lab.

The Community Research Institute (CRI) has provided insightful, collaborative research and evaluation services to nonprofits and foundations in Michigan for almost 20 years.

CRI was first established as part of the Johnson Center in 2000, under the leadership of the Center’s then-director Dr. Donna VanIwaarden. At the time, a group of local stakeholders — spearheaded by Diana Sieger, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF) — envisioned a centralized hub for community data collection and analysis that could help West Michigan’s leaders make decisions for the public good, decisions based on evidence rather than guesswork. It was Diana’s enthusiasm and GRCF’s generous support — both in the beginning and throughout the history of the Johnson Center — that helped make CRI a reality.

Today, the Johnson Center’s work and vision for the future have evolved to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving sector. Since our founding in 1992, we have come to see philanthropy — including nonprofits and funders, donors and volunteers — as an ecosystem made up of interdependent actors whose work is fundamentally grounded in a love for humanity.

As we seek to serve our partners and clients through world-class research and evaluation services, strategic consulting, and professional development offerings, we are making moves to align our internal teams in ways that will best support the work.

As we seek to serve our partners and clients through world-class research and evaluation services, strategic consulting, and professional development offerings, we are making moves to align our internal teams in ways that will best support the work.

“A successful modern workplace must be flexible, adaptive, and networked. Staff, students, and entire project teams flourish where they have the freedom and support to work together across skill and interest areas,” said Teresa Behrens, executive director of the Johnson Center. “By updating the way we organize ourselves, we can optimize the expertise, creativity, and experience we bring to serving you.”

We are pleased to share that Kallie Bauer has agreed to take on the role of interim director of the Community Data and Research Lab and will provide leadership for our project teams while we conduct a search for a full-time director.

Kallie has been with the Johnson Center since 2008 and holds both a B.A. in business administration and an M.B.A. from Grand Valley State University. She is currently pursuing her Project Management Professional (P.M.P.) certification from the Project Management Institute.

This shift also reflects the changing needs of our sector. The Community Data and Research Lab (CDRL) will lean into data and technology innovation that is designed for a social sector audience and supports nonprofits and funders in their desire to make data-informed decisions. “This is an emerging space for serving nonprofits and foundations,” said Kallie. “The community is telling us there’s a gap here. We want to help address it by providing better access to relevant data, employing technology that is easy to use in your work.”

Photo: Kallie Bauer

Kallie Bauer, M.B.A.

This shift also reflects the changing needs of our sector. The Community Data and Research Lab (CDRL) will lean into data and technology innovation that is designed for a social sector audience and supports nonprofits and funders in their desire to make data-informed decisions.

Logo: VoiceKentCDRL will continue to conduct the VoiceKent community survey and operate the Community Profiles data tools (including Community Profiles, Community Profiles 2.0, and the Community Profiles Data Portal). We see these assets as key aspects of the Johnson Center’s commitment to working alongside our West Michigan colleagues to achieve healthy, empowering outcomes for all our neighbors.

The Johnson Center will also continue to take on client- and grant-based research and evaluation projects like those that have been successfully completed by CRI in the past. Those relationships continue, and we are deeply grateful for the many strong partnerships that sustain and energize us. The difference now will be that these and other projects will be better able to call upon staff and resources from across the Johnson Center’s many areas of expertise.

We are deeply thankful for all of the goodwill, partnership, and support our West Michigan community has provided through CRI’s nearly two decades on the job. We are eager to begin a new chapter, partnering with you to find practical, inclusive strategies that support your work, a strong philanthropic sector, and vibrant, equitable communities for all.

If you have questions or comments about this transition, please do not hesitate to reach out to Tory Martin, the Johnson Center’s director of communications and engagement (MartinV@gvsu.edu), or any of our team members for assistance. Kallie Bauer can be reached at BauerKal@gvsu.edu.


Photo: Teri Behrens
Teri Behrens, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University and editor in chief of The Foundation Review. Learn more about Teri.

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