TESTIMONIALS

Here's what some little birds (who happen to be current and former clients, collaborators, and colleagues have to say about working with Optimistic Anthropology and our founder Alison Gold.  And to make this page a bit more fun, we've illustrated the quotes with pictures of actual birds that Alison had the chance to observe, photograph, and learn about on her travels.*  To learn more about the testimonial provider, click on their name.  


A peacock on Pfaueninsel in Berlin, Germany

“We have worked with Alison and Optimistic Anthropology on a number of different projects since 2017 - we actually started with her on one project and she added such value that we asked her to work with us on another project. I can't imagine where we would be without her! Her joyful energy, insightful questions, and her wisdom have helped us move our program forward in a way I couldn't have imagined. Thanks to Alison, we have been able to produce a theory of change for our program that has had hundreds of ripple effects into how we do our work. The work on the theory of change helped us clarify some of our implicit learning goals, and led us to develop curriculum to directly address these goals. Alison has helped us dig deep and through her advising, we have made connections I didn't know were there. It is so clear that she cares deeply about the work she does, and her love and joy shine through.”

-Jyothi Marbin MD, Director, PLUS program, UCSF


A Eurasian Coot (and it’s excellent webbed feet) on the bank of Lake Zurich in Switzerland.

“Optimistic Anthropology guided our team in exploring and applying new frameworks. Our key takeaways - work from good learning questions, frame ideas as hypotheses, and articulate held assumptions - have transformed our practice. Alison's meditation that curiosity takes you places that certainty almost never can struck a chord and has opened us up to new ways of approaching our work. We've replaced the feeling that we need to offer solutions with an intent to facilitate learning.”

-Katherine Gajewski, Partner, City Scale


A vulture in South Africa.

A vulture in South Africa.

“Alison’s the person we turned to when we knew we had a problem, but we didn't know how to solve it.  We asked her to help our grantees build stronger cross-sector collaborations, and she figured it out.  We asked her to help our organization share what we were learning through our grants and investments, and she figured it out.” 

- Ben Hecht, President & CEO, Living Cities


A blacksmith lapwing (or plover) in Botswana

"I've known Alison for seven years  -- we were colleagues for the first two, and have stayed connected ever since. But, that's Alison. Once she is your colleague, she'll always be your colleague. I've shared good news with her and she's been excited and supportive. And I also know that I can call or email her and talk through something I'm wrestling with and she'll listen with openness, empathy, and humor, and then help me figure out what to do next."

-Ronda Jackson, Vice President, City Partnerships, KaBOOM!


Brown-eared bulbul with persimmons on the Kumano Kodo in Japan.

"We's been working with Optimistic Anthropology since 2017 and its helped us clarify our processes so we can maximize the impact of our work. She has helped us get to the "why" of what we're doing and recommends appropriate strategies to meaningfully engage the "who." Alison is not afraid to ask the tough questions and does so in a positive way that is for the good of the organization. Alison is a leader of integrity and excellence and brings a joyful energy to her interactions and communications. We enjoy working with her and would whole-heartedly recommend her to others."


"One of the things that I really appreciate about Alison is that she'll tell you the truth directly, but with love. I recall one walk we took around Lake Merritt where I was sharing about some fears I had about my leadership.  Alison stopped me mid-sentence and said, "I care about you. You're creating that story and it isn't working for you.  You need to let that go.” Then she proceeded to offer up treasures from her expansive and well-curated resource collection, including books and podcasts and personal introductions to people who’d worked through similar experiences, to help me reframe my thinking and go beyond the limitations I'd mentally imposed on myself.

A lilac-breasted roller in South Africa.

A lilac-breasted roller in South Africa.

 

This is one of the things that I appreciate most about her - she never leaves you hanging; her feedback is always followed up with support and accountability.  I think this is an amazing way of being in the world and one that I've seen Alison employ across the ecosystem of her life - from her personal friendships to her professional work."

-Alice Chen, Coach & Principal Experience Architect, Wayfinding Wisdom


An African fish eagle in Botswana

An African fish eagle in Botswana

"I have known Alison for over a decade and she is one of the most impressive and thoughtful change-makers that I've had the pleasure of working with. While there are many passionate leaders with great intentions, far fewer are like Alison, able to create significant social impact by bringing the right people to the table to collaborate. As a thought partner and colleague to me on two separate occasions, I've seen how Alison has approached cross-sector collaboration, facilitation, and curriculum development with an innovative and strategic mindset. And her ability to do that work while working on different issues, in different sectors and within different contexts is a testament to her rock star status."

-Robert Gordon IV, Former Head of Business Development and Partnerships, Presidio Institute and Founder, Leaderosity at Presidio Trust


An ostrich running in South Africa

An ostrich running in South Africa

"I love Alison. In the fifteen years we've known each other, I've hired her on three separate occasions because of her combination of smarts and compassion. Alison has the unique ability to truly listen to people, understand where they are coming from, hear their challenges and to apply her formidable problem-solving skills to guide them to smart solutions. Through her work she creates community and paradigm shifts that inspire people. She provides the framework for change."

- Caroline Cunningham, CEO, Fís Mór - Big Vision and Founding President, Trust for the National Mall


A cape glossy starling in South Africa.

"I had the pleasure of working alongside Alison for two years and appreciated the heart, curiosity, and knowledge she brought to partnerships we were developing with other organizations. She achieved the perfect balance of building genuine friendships with local leaders, while being able to push them to ensure they were reaching their goals. Four years later, I find myself sharing lessons I gained from her with the people I work with today."

-Tracey Ross, Associate Director, All-In Cities Initiative at PolicyLink


A tawny eagle in South Africa

"Alison is more than a storyteller, she’s a story-getter. As both a friend and former colleague, I’ve seen Alison draws insights and experiences out of people that they may not have even known they had. Through her genuine interest in getting to know people and their experiences, she weaves together concepts into action and individuals into communities working toward a shared goal. I admire her fearlessness and thoughtfulness in exploring the world."

- Marisa Waxman, AICP, Budget Director, City of Philadelphia


*And while it should go without saying that there's no correlation between person and bird, we felt we should say it.