Our Meet the Team blog series highlights our team, one member at a time. We give you a glimpse into their motivations and approach to working with our partners to achieve better results for communities. Through this feature, we hope that you’ll find a deeper connection to the people and relationships that are central to our work.
Today we’re getting to know Meghan Hunt, our creative and energetic research consultant at Engage R+D.
1. What is your role at Engage R+D?
Officially, I am a Research Consultant at Engage R+D, but what I love about my role is that there’s opportunity to work a bit on everything. One day you might find me leading a focus group with Spanish-speaking parents near my office in Oakland, and the next I’ll be facilitating a meeting with some of the top policy thinkers in the state. Then it’s off to crunch some numbers or chart up my findings. I am also obsessed with reading and learning, and love exploring new research methodology.
I am especially interested in how I can use the data I collect to inform organizational strategy and move forward with new ideas. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to translate numbers and stats into insightful, engaging findings to share with our partners.
2. What experience do you bring to this work?
My professional training is in public policy, so I am a practical problem solver with an eye toward improving our communities. For our partners, this could mean doing research for a San Francisco health needs assessment or traveling to the Central Valley to see how successful schools are training the next generation of leaders. One of my most interesting and challenging projects was partnering with the Oakland Police Department to work on racial disparities in policing. I sifted through data from over 10,000 traffic stops to identify opportunities for the department to change problematic behavior. In a politically charged and resource-deficient environment, I was able to work with the department to find practical policy solutions. No matter the project, it is always exciting to play a role in an organization’s growth and development.
3. How did you discover your passion for evaluation and learning?
I started my professional life as the coordinator of a mentoring program connecting middle school students to college-aged mentors in the San Francisco Bay Area. The program provided a powerful support for at-risk youth, offering both academic and emotional enrichment opportunities and promoting a college-going culture at the schools in which we worked. The problem was, it was hard to communicate this story to community members and funders. Slowly, I began using school data sources to document academic and behavioral changes in our students and conducting surveys and focus groups to help tell our story as well as continually improve the program. Armed with my new information, I wrote the organization’s first ever strategic plan and partnered with the Oakland Mayor’s office to win a multi-year federal grant from the Department of Justice. Out of a desire to improve my program and document its successes, I had discovered my passion for evaluation and learning! I carry my experience with direct service and learning into all of my projects at Engage R+D.
4. What do you love about your job?
The evaluation field has allowed me to find “my place” in the social sector. As a person with varied interests, I could never find just one area in which to work – topics like education, health, housing, and employment each seemed too important to devote myself to only one. In my role as a consultant I am able to lend my specific expertise in strategy, organizational development, and evaluation to countless organizations doing good work. I also get to marvel at the amazing talents of our partners. Together we are building a stronger future!
5. You’re in San Francisco - tell me 3 places I should go if I visit.
I live in the Lake Merritt neighborhood in Oakland, a place that is bursting with life and fun things to do! Here are three places you might find me on a typical week:
Lake Merritt. Whether running, walking the dog, or passing through on my way to see friends, I visit Lake Merritt at least once a day. The park has miles of running paths, picnic spots, and the oldest wildlife refugee in North America featuring large breeding populations of herons, egrets, and ducks. There are also migrating Canadian geese, but the locals don’t like to talk about them.
Grand Lake Theater. Set in a beautiful art deco building, this movie theater is my favorite spot to catch the latest releases with my filmmaker husband. I love watching anything set in Oakland (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, to name a few), where you will find an enthusiastic local crowd and sometimes even the film’s director. Head over on Tuesdays for $5 tickets and don’t forget to read the cheeky political commentary on the theater’s marquee on your way in.
Drake’s Dealership. Located on Oakland’s historic auto row, this restaurant and taproom in a converted auto body shop features cold ones from Drake’s Brewing. It has indoor seating and a big outdoor patio with cozy fireplaces to fit everyone from young families to your furry companions.