Dispatches from the Field is a recurring feature designed to showcase the school’s commitment to fostering, through field education, fruitful relationships with organizations both in Boston and around the world that are providing critical services to our society.
Nicole Shanelle Haynes, MSW ’20.
Program: macro; field of practice: Children, Youth, and Families
Strategy Matters is a female-owned consulting firm that works with businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, collaboratives, and public-private partnerships to address organizational and societal challenges. The firm, located in Dorchester, Massachusetts, consults with organizations in Massachusetts and across the country.
In her field placement at Strategy Matters, Haynes enjoys wide-ranging responsibilities, including supporting multiple consulting projects. And as the project manager herself assigned to assist the American Camp Association (ACA) New England with their strategic planning, Haynes helped lead a retreat at which the association’s board worked to update their mission, vision, and values statements. She also created a stakeholder engagement plan for this regional camping association—including conducting an online survey and in-depth interviews with key informants—in order to complete an analysis of ACA New England’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to help guide their future strategy.
Haynes also supports the work of other consultants by facilitating offsite group meetings, recording meeting notes, and conducting research to inform various SWOT analyses, such as comparative demographic statistics across different states. “I’ve been able to play a role on several different client projects in addition to project managing, allowing me to learn a tremendous amount in a short period of time,” says Haynes. “And I value that I am treated as an integral part of the consulting team.”
Haynes’s supervisor at Strategy Matters is Katie Stewart Dorfman, MSW ’17. Katie joined Strategy Matters as a consultant in the spring of 2017 after completing her field placement with the organization during the 2016–17 school year.
Haynes appreciates Katie’s mentorship and their weekly meetings. “It is wonderful working with Katie. Even in our fast-paced work environment, she always takes the time to provide thoughtful feedback,” says Haynes. “She helps me take a step back and explore the areas in which I need to develop. She turns mistakes into learning opportunities. She is great at helping me feel confident about my strengths and the skills I bring to the table, such as facilitating groups, managing bias, and building relationships at all levels of an organization.”
Haynes is also grateful to her BCSSW professors for the profound impact they have made on her professional development, including Professor Paul Kline and Associate Professor and Founding Director of BCSSW’s Latinx Leadership Initiative, Rocío Calvo. “Their classes emphasize the importance of letting the community you are working with lead the work you do,” says Haynes.
Haynes has an undergraduate degree in sociology from Emmanuel College and experience as a teaching assistant at a charter school in Roxbury. She also worked as a college success advisor at Bottom Line—a nonprofit that helps low-income and first-generation students get accepted to and through college. These experiences informed her decision to pursue a macro degree in social work in order to address issues and challenges relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the institutional level.
She chose a field placement at Strategy Matters because of its focus on consulting and organizational management. “At Strategy Matters, I’ve been able to gain more experience facilitating in a variety of ways,” says Haynes. “Facilitation is an essential part of the work we do with clients and involves discussions that are important to the direction in which an organization is headed. I’ve learned (and I'm still learning) how to prepare for, and facilitate, discussions so our clients can leave those meetings and retreats feeling encouraged and inspired in the work that they are doing, even when it’s challenging.”
In addition to appreciating her work experience at Strategy Matters, Haynes values the culture of the work environment. “As a black woman and young professional, I often feel as though I am underestimated in the work spaces that I’m in,” she says. “At Strategy Matters, I don’t feel underestimated and therefore I'm able to perform at my absolute best. This field placement has boosted my confidence in my ability to do consulting work and reinforced my desire to focus my career on DEI.”
Haynes is committed to drawing attention to the injustices that people of color and other marginalized groups experience, including LGBTQ+ individuals, people with ability differences, and women. “I’ve always been interested in how we can work together to create a world that is more just and amplifies the voices of those that have historically been oppressed and marginalized,” she says.
She sees a critical need for the presence of social workers in nontraditional roles and industries. “It is clear to me that social workers are not just needed in hospitals and nonprofit agencies,” says Haynes. “My field placement at Strategy Matters continues to expand my view of the value of social work in our world. Social workers are a vital part of any work that is focused on creating more equity and supporting those who are most in need. Social workers are uniquely positioned to lead this work in many different spaces.”
Following graduation in May, Haynes aims to work as a diversity consultant at a DEI consulting practice or as a DEI professional within an organization in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Photos by Mikhail Glabets, courtesy of Strategy Matters, LLC.