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Meet Julia Perkins of MBMD Strategic Consultants in South Shore

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Perkins.

Julia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Earlier in my career, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer and worked oversees as a Program Officer for the AFL-CIO in Central America. When I returned to Chicago, I decided to pursue a career in arts and culture. It was a bit challenging for potential employers to see how the skills I gain in the abroad in in project management, program design, and strategic planning related directly to arts and culture, particularly because they were applied to an international arena. However, the then Vice-President of Education of at the then Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum) did make the connection and hired me for a year consultancy, in which I assisted in engaging the community with a seminal exhibition Bridges and Boundaries: African Americans and American Jews. Following completion of the contract, I was appointed as the first Assistant Director for Community Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago. I served in this capacity for almost ten years, being promoted to the Director of Community Programs. During this period, I worked with senior leadership in developing education strategies, creating new programs, and championing for exhibitions that would engage people of color at the museum. Prior to my departure from the museum, visitorship and membership by people of color had increased significantly.

I decided to hang my shingle, after twice, coming close to being appointed in senior positions at two other cultural institutions. It was one of the best decisions that I had ever made. Now, going into my 17th year, I have had the opportunity to serve very large institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, The Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University and the University of Chicago as well as very small, nimble organizations such as the Guild Complex, Threewalls and Natya Dance Company.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I believe that with any business, there are rocky roads. The economic downturn of 2008 was a very difficult period. There have been other smaller bumps along the journey. One specific challenge in being a small consultancy firm is the limited human capital. I am my business. So, at times, it is difficult to bid on larger books of business given that I do not have a staff, per se. However, I have developed a small and talented network of like-minded consultants. We regularly mobilize forces to bid on larger opportunities and we have been quite successful with this approach. Even with a consortium, bidding on larger projects still is a bit challenging.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with MBMD Strategic Consultants – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
MBMD is a boutique firm. Meaning, that I take on a limited number of clients annually, primarily to ensure I can give them the attention and quality service they deserve. Most of my clients are referrals. I believe that being a trusted advisor, a person that can be called upon for counsel (without an exorbitant price tag attached) is one of the most valuable assets that I provide to clients, all of which are nonprofit organizations. I feel that this is unique selling proposition, which distinguishes MBMD from other consultants in the field.

MBMD’s service portfolio focuses on:

Strategic Planning: MBMD believes that strategy is an iterative process to be embedded in the life of an organization. MBMD’s strategic planning practice works in partnership with institutions to engage them in strategic thinking about their direction. Comprehensive organizational assessments, best practices in the field and key lessons learned by the organization inform the planning process. The emphasis is on developing viable and realistic frameworks, adaptable to changing situations and environments that retain the integrity of the organization’s mission and vision, and address marketplace opportunities.

Facilitation: Active listening, neutrality, assertive probing, synthesized feedback, and balancing group dynamics are the guiding principles of MBMD’s facilitation style. The FoCuSeD (Facilitation of Collaborative useful Solutions embracing Diversity) approach to facilitation informs this style. FoCuSeD is a holistic facilitation method that emphasizes two parallel tracks: the workshop/retreat processes to build the product and the emotional group cycle development to work together, make decisions and solve problems. Julia Perkins, is a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) endorsed by the International Association of Facilitators.

Project management: MBMD uses best practices to meet its client’s project management needs. MBMD works with nonprofit organizations in managing short and long-term projects. MBMD provides project management oversight on a part-time basis for specific projects, or serves as a project practitioner, supporting the institutions project manager on specific initiatives.

In terms of what I am most proud of is being an entrepreneur who has never had to close its doors over the last 17 years and continues to grow stronger.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I do not foresee any major changes over the next several years. I will continue to strive to provide the best services and counsel to my clients.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal photo — Marc Hauser
Two action photos on the left hand side — Suzanne Plunkett
Full group photo – Enrich Chicago

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