Facilitation, Community Engagement & Coalition Building

Cultivate dialogue, strengthen networks, build community.

We facilitate networks and build coalitions to generate collective impact and policy change. In a decade-long collaboration Partnership in Practice, we offer consultation, training, facilitation, and mediation services around issues such as social and racial equity, white privilege, diversity, power, organizational development and conflict transformation.

What is authentic collaborative process?

Across the country, local and regional multi-stakeholder collaboratives are organizing to improve access to health, education, and economic resilience. What ingredients are needed for true collaboration that changes social and racial equity dynamics? How do we cultivate interdependence and foster innovation? How can these collaborations grow relationships and influence, systems and policy?



Home Grown Springfield: Springfield Public Schools Culinary and Nutrition Center

Home Grown Springfield is a school food initiative of Springfield Public Schools and their food service provider Sodexo. The project aims to eliminate student hunger by increasing the quality of school food for its 31,000 students through scratch cooking in a 61,000 square foot state of the art Culinary and Nutrition Center. With funds from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, Fertile Ground leads a diverse Advisory Committee made up of local and regional stakeholders who participate in quarterly advisory sessions focused on developing evaluation criteria and supporting the development of a replicable model. Fertile Ground captured the program’s first two years of  learning and evaluation in our latest report, found here.

Pioneer Valley Grows

Pioneer Valley Grows is a network of advocates, entrepreneurs, and investors focused on enhancing the ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley food system. PVGrows is also the home to the Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group, founded in 2013 to investigate and address systemic racism and inequities in the local food system.

Catherine Sands is on the steering committee of PVGrows and is co-chair of the Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group. In this role, Fertile Ground develops workshops, trainings, and curriculum focused on understanding racism and white privilege for food systems practitioners in the region. Most recently, Fertile Ground has partnered with PVGrows to develop a project to increase access to the PVGrows Investment Fund for farmers and food business owners of color.

Pictured above, Catherine Sands and Liz O’Gilvie, Chair, Springfield Food Policy Council

Reos Partners: The Bridging Studio

Reos Partners is is an international social enterprise that designs, facilitates, and guides processes to make progress on the world’s toughest challenges in education, health, food, energy, environment, development, justice, security, and peace. With more than 20 years of experience and expertise in collaborative coalition building, Reos Partners helps teams work to open and create paths toward systemic transformation.

As a project consultant to Reos Partners Catherine Sands provided co-facilitation for The Bridging Studio exploring the intersection between social innovation and social justice, and the potential transformative social change the two sectors can achieve when they work together.

Partnership in Practice

With Carol Stewart, Sands is the other half of Partnership in Practice, a collaborative consulting group that provides strategic planning, research and evaluation, facilitation and mediation to community groups, nonprofits, educational institutions and municipalities. Specifically, we specialize in creating learning environments, mediation, intergroup dialogue, and conflict resolution.

Based in Western Massachusetts and formed in 2008, our clients have included the Holyoke Health Center, The Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council, The City of Easthampton – Hampshire County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coalition, The City of Holyoke, Amherst College, SPIFFY Coalition for Hampshire Education Collaborative, The FARE Partnership, Haverford College, Wesleyan University and University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Catherine and Carol met during the MPPA program at the Center for Public Policy and Administration at UMASS Amherst during their studies in 2006-2008. They studied in the Social Justice Education department together and found that their lives and values resonated and their Partnership in Practice has provided an avenue for continued collaboration and engage in work that is fun and meaningful to them.