Change is uncomfortable but not unnavigable.
Navigate rather than eliminate challenges. See choices clearly and make difficult decisions with informed confidence.
what we offer
Research-based strategy and management consulting for the 21st century social sector.

Whether your interest is increasing margin or social impact, we integrate strategy into all of our work. Our rigorous business planning process takes into account market opportunities, publicity and promotion, financial modeling, scenario planning, brand positioning, competitors, start-up, and operational costs.

  • Strategic business planning
  • Leadership-level facilitation
  • Custom research
  • Academic rigor
They are really great social scientists.

Potrero Group excels at pulling together disparate pieces of information: surveys, literature review, different sources of information, and putting it into a coherent, comprehensible statement of what’s going on right now.”

— Susan Newton, National Park Foundation
how we work

We understand our clients' unique challenges and opportunities; for us this is a driving passion.


We take on only a limited number of clients at a time and give them our complete focus and attention. We work as a team and are dedicated to achieving the highest quality results.

who we work with
Our primary focus is on supporting innovative leaders and organizations making a difference in the world.

We understand the power of networks and relationships. Our team routinely navigates complicated private, public, and nonprofit alliances. We have long-standing relationships with foundations, social enterprises, and game-changing innovators across the country.

  • Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy
  • Catoctin Forest Alliance
  • Center for Ecoliteracy
  • Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership
  • East Bay Environmental Network
  • Friends of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
  • Local Government Commission
  • MCE (Marin Clean Energy)
  • National Park Foundation
  • National Park Service (Washington Support Office)
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Nature Fund National Parks
  • Pacific Historic Parks
  • Park City Scholars
  • Peckerwood Garden Conservation Foundation
  • Pulse Point
  • Rock Creek Conservancy
  • S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
  • Sonoma Land Trust

Innovation means looking for solutions beyond the known—seeing past the status quo to find an entirely new way to approach a challenge.

our team
Our skill at distilling complex concepts and research into understandable, actionable plans, reports, and tools is demonstrated by our body of work.

Our team has spent many years analyzing and evaluating organizations and programs from the nonprofit, government, and for-profit industries. We have sophisticated expertise in research methods, data collection approaches, quantitative and qualitative analysis, and modeling. We are based in the San Francisco Bay Area and regularly work on projects nationwide.

Cleveland Justis
Nicholas Ferlatte
Andrew Leider
Stephanie Duncan Karp
Cheryl Little
Cleveland Justis
MBA, PhD (in process)

An accomplished organizational leader in the environmental and entrepreneurial arenas for the past 20 years, Cleveland Justis is a principal at the Potrero Group and the executive director of UC Davis’ Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Formerly, Cleveland was co-founder and director of the Institute at the Golden Gate, where he led numerous high-profile organizational change initiatives.

A noted expert on social and environmental entrepreneurship, Cleveland has worked and consulted widely with companies, nonprofits, and governmental organizations including the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and several leading corporations.

Cleveland has held faculty positions at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, UC Davis Graduate School of Management, Georgetown University, and Dominican University. Cleveland has organized many conferences and programs and is a sought-after keynote speaker, having served in a keynote role at Net Impact, the Ahwahnee Conference, the Environmental Forum, and the Agricultural Institute of Marin.

Cleveland has served in executive-level positions with the University of California, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Headlands Institute of NatureBridge (formerly Yosemite National Institutes), and the National Outdoor Leadership School. Cleveland currently serves as the Board Chair of the Marin Community Foundation ($1.5 billion in assets). He formerly served on the board of directors of Net Impact, an organization with a global network of more than 15,000 leaders who are changing the world through business, and as a commissioner of the Marin County Parks and Open Space Commission.

Cleveland studied biology and environmental sciences at Swarthmore College and the University of California at Berkeley. He received his MBA in strategic management and finance at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, and is currently pursuing his PhD in social entrepreneurship at UC Davis. Cleveland’s research interests include public/private partnerships, entrepreneurship, network analysis, and innovation.

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Nicholas Ferlatte

Nicholas is a principal at the Potrero Group and has extensive leadership experience in the healthcare sector and in the field of social sector business planning. Nicholas’ consulting expertise is focused on social impact ventures. His work includes supporting non-profits to build capacity and develop strategic business plans. Recently, he was part of a team that helped optimize a complex partner network supporting a $500 million construction project at the St Louis Arch. Nicholas was the lead analyst for a network assessment of the 200 philanthropic organizations that support national parks. He also served as a consultant on the Food for the Parks initiative.

Nicholas has spoken at several national conferences, including Net Impact, on the topic of business planning in the social sector. He currently serves as the board secretary of Capay Valley Growers Inc., a for-profit social venture focused on regional agriculture sustainability.

Nicholas studied Physiology at the University of California at San Diego. He received his MS from the University of California at San Francisco and his MBA (with an emphasis on Nonprofit Organization Strategy) from University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

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Senior Consultant
Andrew Leider

Andrew is a senior consultant with Potrero Group. He specializes in program design, leadership strategy, and project management for organizations in transition. Andrew is the founder of two nonprofit educational organizations and a past director with the Orfalea Foundation and senior manager for Outward Bound, On The Edge Productions, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.                    

As senior program manager with the Institute at the Golden Gate, Andrew was instrumental in the development of Healthy Parks, Healthy People, a groundbreaking program linking parks with underserved, high health-need communities. He also was a leader of Food for the Parks, a program supporting the NPS’ adoption of healthy food standards for concession contracting.                    

A lifelong advocate for connecting people with the natural world, Andrew conceived and launched Climate in the Parks, a national program to promote science and climate change literacy through public lands. He has led transformative learning processes for organizations and individuals for more than 20 years. Andrew holds a somatic coach certification from Strozzi Institute and a degree in history from Gustavus.

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Senior Consultant
Stephanie Duncan Karp

Stephanie Duncan Karp is a senior consultant at the Potrero Group. For clients such as the National Park Conservation Association and the Council on Foundations, Stephanie has designed programs that help make meaningful connections between natural resources, social justice, and public health. Stephanie is also the lead researcher and author of the National Park Service’s Urban Agenda. She began working with Potrero Group in 2013 to assist with field research and stakeholder engagement for organizations such as the Sonoma Land Trust, National Park Foundation, and Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership. Stephanie employs creativity and collaboration as her primary tools for engendering change.

Prior to her consulting work, Stephanie served as a program manager at the Institute at the Golden Gate, where she created programs that utilize parks and public lands to solve broader societal issues. At the Institute, she helped create Park Prescriptions, a movement to connect public lands to our healthcare system, and launched the National Park Service's Healthy Parks Healthy People US initiative nationwide. Stephanie founded Healthy Parks Healthy People: Bay Area, a collective impact initiative of over 40 public lands, public health, academic and corporate partners to increase park use and enjoyment for the health and wellbeing of all San Francisco Bay Area residents. Stephanie received her BA from Swarthmore College.

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Senior Consultant
Cheryl Little

Cheryl Little has more than 20 years of experience in community sustainability, equitable development, land revitalization, and transportation. She delivers technical assistance, capacity building, and collaborative planning focused on environmental restoration, cultural sustainability, and the inclusion of low-income individuals, people of color and indigenous communities in decision-making. She is recognized for leading multidisciplinary teams and dialogues to resolve complex environmental issues. Cheryl has served as the director of the National Vacant Properties Campaign at Smart Growth America, associate director of the Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program and as a task force coordinator for the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Cheryl has received numerous awards for evaluating large-scale programs, including a $1 billion R&D initiative on intelligent transportation systems and driverless vehicles. A skilled communicator, Cheryl has broad experience designing, writing and editing in print and web formats to transform complex technical and regulatory information into meaningful and engaging content. She has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and a master’s in international development from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. 

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Potrero thinks deeply about social processes and people.

Collaboration has been around forever, but there is now a changing understanding of what that means. We must work together in networks. If an organization can position itself in the context of what others are doing, they can have bigger impact.”

— Gary Knoblock, S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
your results
We value and embrace cross sector collaboration.

Our team has worked closely with large and small organizations from national park units to regional governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and hospitals. We have deep experience in public-private partnerships and actively lecture and write about social enterprises. Click on one of the images below to read a case study of one of our projects or download one of our reports.

Philanthropic Impact Assessment
Transforming Public Institutions
Defining Market Position
Financial Analysis of Nonprofits
Strategic Expansion
New Organization: Concept to Launch
National Park Foundation
National Park Partners: Status and Trends

The National Park Foundation (NPF) works within a large network of local park partners throughout the country. Potrero Group conducted a qualitative and quantitative analysis of 216 nonprofit partners that support the National Park Service (NPS). The objective was to help both NPF and NPS better understand these partners and their needs.

  • Local partnerships benefit from national coordination. 
  • Different segments of this network have different needs and capacity. 
  • Strengthening the network, rather than investing in each individual organization, builds the overall capacity of the partner network.

Potrero Group's research helped to characterize and analyze the structure and scope of the NPS partner community. The research identified opportunities to enhance NPS’s and National Park Foundation’s engagement with partners. One of the outcomes of the work was the development of common assessment metrics for partners’ outcomes, growth, and sustainability.

Download Final Report (1.41 MB PDF)
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Transform SDC
Sonoma Development Center: Site Transformation Study

A coalition led by the Sonoma Land Trust and Parent Hospital Association sought novel approaches to transform a closing state institution in Northern California. The strategic analysis and research accounted for social issues, regional contexts, local and statewide political climate and community interests.

  • The planning process needs to engage the community and include critical stakeholders.
  • The process should include significant high-level state, corporate, and/or national leadership.
  • Financial self-sufficiency must be at the core of planning.
  • A powerful vision for transformation attracts financial and volunteer resources.
  • Alternative governance structures can enable the site to transcend limitations of traditional development and/or government ownership.

Potential models were developed for an innovative, community driven public-private partnership at the Sonoma Developmental Center. The client and its coalition learned best practices for transforming large public institutions for new uses. They were able to bring innovative practices and relevant examples to discussions with state agencies and legislators.

Download Final Report (1.84 MB PDF)
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Marin Clean Energy
Energy Efficiency Business Plan

MCE utilizes an entrepreneurial public-private partnership model (community choice aggregation) that is transforming clean energy delivery. MCE needed to present a business case to state regulators in support of the organization's ability to compete with larger utility providers in the energy efficiency market.


MCE has a tailored approach to customer engagement which allows them to provide flexible energy efficiency solutions and unparalleled service delivery. Potrero Group helped MCE demonstrate that their deep market knowledge and high levels of customer service differentiate their business model from other service providers.


MCE moved forward to expand the scope and scale of their energy efficiency programs with confidence. State regulators now have a powerful tool to evaluate the energy efficiency contributions of MCE and other organizations that elect to use a similar model.

Download Final Report (8.27 MB PDF)
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Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership
Napa County Nonprofits at Work

The Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership and the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies sought to understand the economic and social impacts of the nonprofits in Napa County. Potrero Group conducted a mixed method analysis of 634 nonprofits in Napa County and delivered a report detailing findings and recommendations for further research and community engagement.


Nonprofits and those who support them are more effective when they:

  • increase investment in nonprofit infrastructure, leadership development, and training
  • raise the community's understanding of the important role of nonprofits in Napa County 
  • expand the sector’s philanthropic capacity, reach, and focus
  • continually assess current and projected needs of the community
  • influence policy through advocacy for the nonprofit sector and the stakeholders it serves

Nonprofit leaders, philanthropists, and government partners now have a tool and a common language to discuss the role, impact, and needs of local nonprofits and the community at large.

Download Final Report (2.57 MB PDF)
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National Wildlife Federation
Center for Diversity, Youth, and Nature Feasibility Study

The National Wildlife Federation(NWF) was interested in expanding its programming for environmental education for urban youth. The focus of this project was the potential for developing a remote facility into an experiential education center. Potrero Group worked with NWF to identify goals and benchmarks, test assumptions, and develop models to inform strategic decisions.


There was tremendous need and hope for the project, yet it came with significant risk, logistical challenges, and costs that put its initial appeal into a practical context. Three business models were developed that could meet NWF's goals, each requiring varying investment and producing different outcomes and impacts. Our research helped to uncover the ways in which potential funders would respond to a proposed innovation in a relatively stabilized field, as well as the realities and market opportunities of the proposed project.


The organization had a data-driven decision-making tool for assessing the feasibility of pursuing the opportunity. Their engagement with stakeholders and partners was strengthened through the use of common language, metrics, and assessments. 

Download Final Report (304.97 KB PDF)
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Pacific Historic Parks
Pearl Harbor Institute

An internationally recognized national park wanted to develop cutting edge educational programming. The project was an outcome of a public-private partnership between NPS and its philanthropic partners. Potrero Group helped guide the project through initial inquiry and feasibility, narrowed the scope of the project with stakeholders, developed a business plan, and supported the launch of the new organization.


As stakeholders evaluated different business and program models, three core principals emerged. The institution would:

  • strengthen national parks as places of learning that develop American values, civic engagement, and citizen stewardship
  • use leading-edge technologies and social media to effectively communicate with and capture the interest of the public
  • collaborate with partners and other education institutions to expand National Park Service education programs

The Pearl Harbor Institute launched in the spring of 2014 and the first executive director was hired in the fall of 2014. Programming began in the spring of 2015.

Download Final Report (4.54 MB PDF)
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Learning Resources
Books, articles, websites and other resources that inspire us.
Show All Strategy and Strategic Planning Business Planning Public Private Partnerships Leadership Innovation and Entrepreneurship Collaboration Networks
Collective Impact
Current Issues In Social Entrepreneurship: Funding and Finance
Emergent Learning: A Framework for Whole- System Strategy, Learning, and Adaptation
Food for the Parks
Four Network Principles for Collaboration Success
How to Put the Fun in Fundraising (and bring in much more money for your non-profit)
Model Behavior: 20 Business Model Innovations for Sustainability
Park Prescriptions: Profiles and Resources for Good Health from the Great Outdoors
Pay-What-It-Takes Philanthropy
Recombinant Innovation
Six Theory of Change Pitfalls to Avoid
Social Entreprneurship at the Nexus
The Big Lie of Strategic Planning
The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs
The Smart Talk Trap
The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.
Understanding New Power
Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything
Anticipate. The Architecture of Small Team Innovation and Product Success
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers
Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate
How Google Works
Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World
Sustainable Innovation: Build Your Company's Capacity to Change the World
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers
The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution
The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change
Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life
What to Do When it's Your Turn (and it's Always Your Turn)
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Harvard Business Review
Insights on Innovation: A Presentation at SOCAP
Seth’s Blog
Stanford Social Innovation Review