The Coco Canary Newsletter – January 2021

The Coco Canary Monthly Newsletter

January 2021

Welcome to the Coco Canary Newsletter!

Hello from Molly O’Connor, the CEO, and founder of Coco Canary Consulting, LLC (CCC), an evaluation & communications firm.

We are based in St. Paul, MN, and we acknowledge that we are on stolen indigenous lands. Home to the Santee Dakota and Anishinaabe people. These people were the first stewards of the lands we occupy, and they are still here. We honor their connection to this land and their ongoing resilience in the face of violent colonialism.

You may ask, how do social justice and racial equity relate to evaluation or communication? Well, from our experience, we have seen evaluations designed and communications reported in ways that harm, undervalue, and take advantage of the communities being served. This is our current status quo, and it is not okay. It has to change. This is why we do our work differently because we want to be apart of the solution, not the problem.

Please visit Community Centric Fundraising for more information. It is a new movement that has inspired thousands (including Coco Canary) to do better. For extra credit, visit Consulting With a Racial Equity Lens too.

A Brief Message… A Grounding… From Molly

Before I delve into the excitement that is a business update, I wanted to take a moment to ground ourselves and point out important things that have happened since mid-December.

White Violence, A White Insurrection, & White Supremacy

On January 6th, 2021, white supremacists forcibly entered the United States Capitol. I could spend this whole newsletter sharing how condemning this was, how people died because of Trump’s negligence and endorsement for white violence, and how white supremacy is stronger than ever in this country. But, I won’t. Because many of my readers already know this. For those who are questioning, or are curious how they can get more involved in the racial justice movement; contact me. 

This is an Instagram post from The Black Lives Matter account. The caption reads, “Make no mistake, if the protesters were black, we would have been tear gasses, battered, and perhaps shot.” 

A New President, An Uplifting Inauguration, & More Work to Do. 

I can’t fully describe the weight that has been lifted once Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden were sworn into office. I felt deeply happy for the first time in what felt like years. Of course, we have a lot of work to do still, and we have to hold the Biden Administration accountable. Because the fight for racial justice and equity isn’t over until justice is served, treaties are respected, and when reparations are followed through. And, well, the list goes on. 

Much love and in solidarity,

-Molly O’Connor

CEO of Coco Canary Consulting

It is official. I was accepted into The Headwaters Foundation for Justice’s Giving Project 2021 cohort!

Business Updates

1. It is Official: I Made It Into The Giving Project 2021 Cohort!

If that title makes no sense to you, then let me explain why this is so exciting. Headwaters Foundation For Justice’s (HFJ) mission is to amplify the power of community to advance equity and justice. Once a year, they offer an amazing and competitive program called The Giving Project. In which a cross-class, multiracial group of 14-20 folks come together to move money to BIPOC-led organizations that focus on systems change. Through staff-led workshops and training, the cohort develops a shared understanding of race, class, and power within society, which supports their collective action in fundraising and grant-making.

I have had the fortune to know three Giving Project Alum (fun fact, one of my previous clients was in the first-ever cohort). Each of them said the program changed their life and that the connections and friends they made will last a lifetime. 

I am so excited about this opportunity. I will get to support organizations that share the same values as me. Also, as an evaluator, it will be helpful to learn more about on-the-ground fundraising. A lot of my clients are either in the foundation or non-profit space. And fundraising is a significant part of their work. I only have theoretical knowledge (predominantly from the Community Centric Fundraising perspective). This summer, I will have a much deeper understanding of this work and why equitable fundraising is so important.

Logo of the Minnesota Judicial Branch

2. MN Adult Drug Court Evaluation – A New Contract!

Starting in late December 2020, I began a contract through the Minnesota Judicial Branch (thanks to a colleague’s referral!). For the next six months, I will be conducting a process evaluation for a Minnesota County Adult Drug Court Program. Let’s tease out what that means. First, let me describe what a drug court does.

Drug courts are designed to guide offenders identified as drug-addicted into treatment to reduce drug dependence and improve their quality of life. A typical drug court program participant is closely supervised by a judge supported by a multidisciplinary team of substance abuse treatment professionals, treatment coordinators, attorneys, probation officers, coordinators, and case managers. The drug court system’s goal is to use a treatment-based approach and utilize the blended resources and expertise of the different departments involved to encourage sobriety, re-employment, and community-building. The alternative is the traditional court system, which is usually not treatment-based. Drug courts have been shown to be effective in reducing recidivism (GAO, 2005), improving the psychosocial functioning of offenders (Kralstein, 2010), and lowering taxpayer costs due to positive outcomes for drug court participants (Cary & Finigan, 2004).

Process evaluations, in a drug court setting, indicate whether a program functions as planned treats the intended target population of participants, and delivers the types and dosages of services that are likely to produce favorable outcomes. I’ll be conducting surveys, and interviews to answers questions such as: (1) what problems and barriers were encountered in implementing the program, and how were they resolved? And (2) How do staff members, participants, and stakeholders perceive the program’s aims and effectiveness?

I’m excited about this project, and I am looking forward to seeing how I can help this adult drug court team improve its program. I think that’s my favorite thing about being an evaluator. I get to help people, both the client and their participants!

Other Business Updates

A Decolonizer In-Training

I am currently enrolled in a course called “Decolonising Evaluation.” Hosted by The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, also known as Wits University. In this course, we are exploring questions such as:

  • What needs to be done to dismantle the systems and structures so that evaluation does not become complicit in entrenching existing inequalities?
  • What is the role of indigenous knowledge systems in the evaluation practice? 

These are big questions, and I feel grateful to have an intentional and interactive community of evaluators (all over the world) to discuss this topic with.

New Year, New Website (Coming Soon!)

We are in the process of updating my website. Currently, I am using and am switching to My goal is to have it done by mid-February. I’ve been using this opportunity to sit with my business plan, business model. And to make sure my website visually and verbally rings true with my mission, vision, and values. Keep an eye and ear out for its release next month!

A comic I drew for my 2020 holiday card. This card includes Michael playing on the piano, Allison holding a plant, Teresa playing with our commune dog, Birch, and me drawing everyone while talking on Zoom with a friend.

Personal Updates

Did You Know I Am An Artist? A Cartoonist, To Be More Precise!

Every year, since 2013, I have been designing my holiday cards. They are usually a vague description of my current life told through one-panel cartoons. And each year, the story adds from the previous year. This year, I bought a house with my partner, Mike, and moved in with two friends who are renting from us. We decided to create a communal living situation, in which we share chore responsibilities and cook food for each other. We also have a commune dog named Birch! It has been the most beautiful thing, especially during COVID (though let’s be real, sometimes we all need alone time, and it is hard to find alone time in a house with four people!).

I have been thinking about using my holiday card art to raise money for social justice causes. Perhaps next year, I’ll consider having a fundraiser where folks can order holiday cards, and the profits will go to local organizations pushing for justice?

If you have any good ideas, let me know!

Let’s Stay Connected!

To keep up to date with my business news, connect or follow me on Linkedin. Don’t forget to follow my blog, as well! And, of course, if you know of anyone who may benefit from my services, send them my way. Referrals are what make the world go round!

Be well,

Molly O’Connor (she/her/hers)

CEO – Evaluation & Communications Specialist
direct: (612) 868-0364

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