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.
nimble

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
  • Organizational effectiveness
  • Custom research
  • Executive search
Executive Search
Recruiting exceptional leaders for mission driven organizations. View Opportunties
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.

entrepreneurial

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
partnering
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.

Clients
  • Alaska Geographic Association
  • American Rivers
  • Anacostia Park
  • Big Bend Conservancy
  • Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy
  • California Council of Land Trusts
  • California League of Park Associations
  • Catoctin Forest Alliance
  • Center for Ecoliteracy
  • Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership
  • Conservation Law Foundation
  • East Bay Environmental Network
  • Eastern National
  • Friends of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Gateway Arch
  • Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Grand Canyon Conservancy
  • Groundwork DC
  • Groundwork USA
  • 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
  • Outdoor Afro
  • Pacific Historic Parks
  • Park City Scholars
  • Parks California
  • Peckerwood Garden Conservation Foundation
  • Pulse Point
  • Resources Legacy Fund
  • Rock Creek Conservancy
  • S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
  • Sempervirens Fund
  • Sequoia Parks Conservancy
  • Sonoma Land Trust
  • Western National Parks Association
  • Western Rivers Conservancy

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
learning
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
Cheryl Little
Andrew Leider
Stephanie Duncan Karp
Michael Clayton
Jena Kuznik
Sarah Mathews
Daniel Student
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Principal
Cleveland Justis
MBA, PhD

Cleveland is the founder and principal of the Potrero Group. An accomplished organizational leader in entrepreneurship and the environment for the past 25 years, Cleveland has worked and consulted widely with startups, businesses, nonprofits, foundations, and governmental organizations, including the National Park Service, Resources Legacy Fund, and Grand Canyon Conservancy. He currently teaches Social Entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. 

Cleveland’s expertise spans strategic planning, business planning, board development, public/private partnerships, entrepreneurship, network analysis, and innovation. He was formerly the executive director of the UC Davis Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and co-founded and served as director of the Institute at Golden Gate. He also held executive level positions at Headlands Institute of NatureBridge (formerly Yosemite National Institutes) and the National Outdoor Leadership School. Cleveland served as board chair of the Marin Community Foundation (over $2 billion in assets), as a board member 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 has earned an MBA and PhD from UC Davis and is a sought-after thought leader and speaker, regularly presenting at dozens of national conferences including Net Impact, the Ahwahnee Conference, the Environmental Forum, and the Agricultural Institute of Marin. 

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Senior Consultant
Cheryl Little

Cheryl Little is a senior consultant with Potrero Group. She has more than 20 years of experience in community sustainability, equitable development, environmental justice, transportation, smart growth, and land revitalization. Cheryl 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.

Throughout her career, she has focused on creating and managing multidisciplinary teams and projects to resolve complex environmental issues with an emphasis on restoration, cultural sustainability, and the inclusion of low-income individuals, people of color, and indigenous communities in decision-making. 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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Managing Director
Andrew Leider

Andrew is the managing director of 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
MFA (in process)

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
Michael Clayton
MBA, MALD

Michael is a senior consultant with Potrero Group. He has worked for the past twenty years in the social venture space, leading initiatives and crafting partnerships between businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies. His work with protected areas has ranged from supporting the development of a new national park system in the Republic of Georgia in the 1990s, to participating in the writing of a business plan for the National Mall and Memorials Park in Washington, DC, to coordinating the collection and analysis of deferred maintenance on buildings, utilities, trails and roads in some of the largest parks in America. He also developed a Total Cost of Ownership study utilized by the National Park Service to understand long-term budget requirements prior to opening the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.

In addition to his work with Potrero Group, Michael runs a small consulting firm, Cap Log Group, which supports conservation groups and businesses seeking to identify market and economic opportunities that advance environmental goals in the agricultural and commercial fishing industries. He previously founded and led Trace and Trust, Inc., a California-based technology company that distributed source information on seafood, meat and produce to customers in restaurants across the US. Michael holds a degree in International Relations from Stanford University, a Masters in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School and an MBA from Columbia University. He lives in Davis, CA.

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Consultant
Jena Kuznik
MEM

Jena Kuznik is a consultant with Potrero Group. Her work has primarily focused on recruitment for nonprofit leadership. She coordinates Potrero’s search and hiring process for thought leaders and non-traditional candidates for executive roles. In addition to her work with Potrero Group, Jena has managed projects for organizations focused on sustainable agriculture, water resilience, and environmental philanthropy. She specializes in developing collaborative partnerships between diverse actors to create broader impact.

Previously, Jena worked in agricultural investment as an operational risk analyst focused on sustainability and safety. Before that, she worked on the land as a cowgirl in New Mexico and Australia. Jena received her BS in international agricultural development from UC Davis and her Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

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Associate Consultant
Sarah Mathews
MFA (in process)

Sarah Mathews is an associate consultant at the Potrero Group. Prior to joining the Potrero Group team, Sarah worked at The Raben Group, a progressive public affairs firm in Washington, D.C., where she staffed a series of client projects addressing social issues, from the opioid crisis to Puerto Rican enfranchisement to reproductive healthcare access. She also spearheaded various operations, business development and marketing initiatives during her tenure. Prior to her time at Raben, Sarah worked for a boutique consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois, working under a senior consultant to help Fortune 500 clients manage system-wide change.

Sarah grew up in India, Canada, and Oman, immigrating to the United States at seventeen. She often draws on her experience with diverse groups and thinking, as well as her ability to assess and adapt to complex new situations, to strengthen her work. She is a map reader—an interpreter of people, processes and politics—who is driven to define and solve problems through consensus and strategic acumen. She received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was awarded a Rona Jaffe Fellowship for women in the arts from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

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Associate Consultant & Internal Strategist
Daniel Student
MBA (in process)

While pursuing his full-time studies at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management as an MBA candidate, Daniel serves as Associate Consultant & Internal Strategist for The Potrero Group, defining their position at the intersection of the private and public sectors.

Prior to moving to the bay area, he worked in the professional performing arts in Philadelphia for ten years, cultivating human-centered change by building non-profits and directing diverse actors in over 30 theatrical productions, and was lauded for "rapidly proving himself a young director of range and vision" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also ran a theater company named Plays & Players, for which, after being made their youngest board member, he led a strategic planning process that resulted in him being named Executive Director. In his four years at the helm, he more than doubled the operating budget, raised foundational giving by 500%, implemented overhauls to the website, email newsletter and social media, significantly expanded community partnerships, and implemented an artist-in-residence program for local actors and playwrights. Upon briefly moving to Los Angeles, he directed the 2017 theatrical production, YOU, which charged a nation-wide record of $5000 per ticket to a nightly audience of just one person and was given feature coverage in Newsweek.

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Advisory Council

The Potrero Group Advisory Council is a group of industry-leading professionals providing guidance, expertise, and opportunity to enhance the quality and impact of the work we provide.

Leyna Bernstein
Founder/Senior Advisor, Leadership Search Partners
Miguel Gavaldón
Coalition Facilitator
Board Chair, Buck Trust, Marin Community Foundation
Jon Jarvis
Former Director, National Park Service
Marianna Leuschel
Creative Strategist, New Agency
Rue Mapp
Founder/CEO, Outdoor Afro
Lisa Maulhardt
Executive Vice President, SYPartners
Julie Pierce Williams
Founder, Kirtan Solutions
Former SVP, National Park Foundation
Former Senior Advisor, Department of Interior
Nina Roberts, PhD
Professor, SF State University
Steve Schroeder, MD
Professor, UCSF
Former CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Wilford Welch
Former Board Chair, NOLS and NatureBridge
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
intersection
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
Feasibility and Business Planning
New Organization: Concept to Launch
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National Park Foundation
National Park Partners: Status and Trends
Context

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.

Insights
  • 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.
Results

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
Context

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.

Insights
  • 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.
Results

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
Context

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.

Insights

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.

Results

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
Context

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.

Insights

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
Results

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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Resources Legacy Fund
Parks California Feasibility Study & Business Plan
Context

In 2015, the California Parks Forward Commission recommended creating a new nonprofit organization to support California parks statewide. Potrero Group was engaged by Resources Legacy Fund to complete a feasibility study and subsequent business plan for the proposed organization. The first phase assessed statewide need and clarified the proposed organization's mission scope, partnership approach, and structural considerations. The business planning phase evaluated operations and revenue scenarios and helped decision-makers and funders select a desired business approach and scale of operations.

Insights

Potrero Group’s feasibility study confirmed the California Parks Forward Commission recommendation that a new organization was needed to bring added resources, expertise, and flexibility in support of a visionary, world-class park system in California. Potrero Group’s business plan proposed a model that will synthesize a strong project and program approach with an effective platform for philanthropic, public, and project-related funding. Initially, it will rely heavily on philanthropy and funds from projects and will build credibility and momentum by demonstrating success. In order to succeed, the organization will need a strong partnership culture, clarity of purpose, and engaged and effective board members and staff.

Results

The new organization, Parks California, will fill an important role by assisting the California Department of Parks and Recreation with pressing systemwide priorities. It will also help to amplify the vision and values of California’s parks to a broader community, anchor the system as political administrations and priorities change, and welcome new supporters and constituencies. Parks California will help to grow overall support for parks rather than cut into existing resources, and expand the role parks can play in the lives of Californians and visitors.

Parks Support Organization Business Plan (3.61 MB PDF)
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Pacific Historic Parks
Pearl Harbor Institute
Context

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.

Insights

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
Results

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
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Collective Impact
Collective Impact on the Ground
Cracking the Network Code: Four Principles for Grantmakers
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
Go Tell It On The Mountain: Ways To Measure Collaboration
Guide to People Management During COVID-19
How Adaptive Strategy is Adapting
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 Entrepreneurship at the Nexus
The Big Lie of Strategic Planning
The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs
The Science of What Makes People Care
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
Best Practices and Tools for Working Remotely
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 Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
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
Working with Consultants
Newsletter Archive
Insights and announcements from past issues of our newsletter.
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