Lindsay Green-Barber is the founder, CEO, and principal consultant of The Impact Architects (www.theimpactarchitects.com), a media impact and strategy consultancy whose clients include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Open Society Foundations Program on Independent Journalism. Prior to starting her business, Dr. Green-Barber worked at the Center for Investigative Reporting and taught at Hunter College. She completed her Ph.D. at the GC in 2012.
Matt Mautarelli: What led you to start your own consultancy?
Lindsay Green-Barber: One of the things that’s interesting about companies and philanthropic foundations is that they think a lot about social change in terms of evaluation, and I don’t think about my work as being evaluation. I think of it as strategic research, and I’m actually most interested in the strategy side of it, which is also what separates it from academic research. I felt like a traditional evaluation consulting firm wasn’t going to be a good fit for me and the kind of work I want to do. And when I looked into going into another organization, I found a lot of interesting places, but I wanted to be more expansive in my interests than what I could do within one organization. So this felt like a way I could dip my toes into a bunch of different subjects and see what I like, and it panned out. I get to do all kinds of different work, work with different clients, and intellectually it’s really exciting and stimulating to be able to follow my interests professionally.
If there’s one thing that would be worth sharing with students it’s that this wasn’t my plan. This is not a career path that people set out for. A lot of it just kind of happens. I was talking to Dr. Susan Woodward and I said I felt really lucky and she said “don’t say that you’re lucky, say that you worked hard.” And I did work hard, but in the end, like with anything, it was probably a little bit of both.
MM: As an academic whose work is rooted in social justice movements, how did you approach working in the professional world of media and communications technology?
LGB: So when I came into media organizations I was like, “what you care about is social change, or accountability, or people having access to more information. Whatever sort of way you talk about change, if that’s what you care about, then let’s figure out how to strategize and do research about those things.” Starting from there, I introduced a lot of alternative research methods, to “measure” the impact of what people were doing. And that was really exciting, since no one knows what to do with qualitative data, and there is this, as you said, a huge emphasis in media and tech on innovation and quantitative data without any real understanding or interrogation of what the data are telling us or what our actual questions are. Introducing ways to think about generating qualitative data, to understand what it tells us, and to use other tools like structured interviews and whatever, was new to that space, and it really resonated. That was the way I was able to be in that space with my background, and I found that people were really excited to have an alternative perspective presented to them.
MM: How has your work-life balance differed in your academic and private sector jobs?
LGB: My work-life balance right after the GC, when I went to work immediately in a private organization, was to be honest a little challenging. But now my work-life balance is pretty amazing. I can make my own schedule. A friend of mine recently asked if I work more, less, or the same now that I’m on my own, and the answer is definitely more. More than when I worked in an office for sure. But I can structure my time so that I’m being hyper-productive in the hours when I am working, getting things done, and then when I’m not I can go do other things. I have hobbies now! Which I didn’t have time for in grad school. I cook and I have a cooking blog (whimsycooks.com). I cooked in grad school, but I was broke. And I can read fiction now without feeling like I should be reading something else.