Agency Spotlight: SOS Children’s Villages –meeting the needs of orphans worldwide

Pictured above from left to right is Ladji Koné , the Director of center, and Mr. Kouadio of NGO WELL

Pictured above from left to right is Ladji Koné , the Director of center, and Mr. Kouadio of NGO WELL

As preparations for our Travel With Purpose service project, our Côte d’Ivoire based coordinator, Ladji Koné, has been learning about and visiting organizations which are working every day to improve the lives of Ivoirians.  

This week, Ladji would like to introduce you to SOS Children's Villages - the largest nonprofit in the world dedicated to children who have either lost their parents, or cannot grow up with their biological  families.  

Located not far from Abidjan, the SOS Children’s Village of Abobo was created in 1971 (the international organization originated in Austria in 1949 to serve orphans of World War II). In total, there are three such villages in Côte d’Ivoire, including Abobo, Aboisso, and Yamoussoukro.  

Funded through donations, SOS Villages provide children suffering from tragedies a safe, healthy home offering long-term emotional stability and educational opportunities, including a family framework which includes trained “mothers.” At 18, graduates transition to family homes in the surrounding village, continuing their education or apprenticeships. Alumni have become doctors, started their own businesses, are officers in the military, among other jobs. 

The playground at the center. The children were not photographed for their safety.

The playground at the center. The children were not photographed for their safety.

The Abobo Village orphanage Ladji visited includes a health center which offers vaccinations, a lab, and soon will have a maternity ward, all open to the community; boys’ and girls’ homes which serve 200 children in family-like settings (older children, 14-18+ reside in youth homes); recreation facilities for football (soccer), basketball and handball; and primary and secondary schools complete with computer room, canteen, and schoolyard. In the village surrounding the compound, the center supports over 500 children through a family strengthen program, designed to help prevent child abandonment.  

In a September 2016 Africa 360 media article, the Orphanage Director explained the tragedy of these children, “In this region, for example, it is customary for the tenth child to be considered a bearer of misfortune and to be ‘sacrificed.’ In Aboisso we have (saved) some of these children from death.” 


“The center faces difficulty training students in the latest technology,” explained Ladji of his visit to the computer room. Although there is some equipment, tablets are in short supply and internet service can be temperamental.  

For more information, to make a donation or sponsor a child’s tuition:  

About SOS Children’s Village Abobo Gare.  

Related: SOS supports girls’ education and vocational training through the Women’s Training and Education Institute.  

Recognitions include the Better Business Bureau (Accredited Charity), Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2002, among others. 

In addition to SOS Children’s Village of Abobo, Ladji has met with Côte d’Ivoire’s National Tourism Office’s Director of External Relationships, Yao N’Guessan Grégroire to further explore partnerships for our Travel With Purpose program. 


Introducing Katharina

Hello all,


My name is Katharina Brinschwitz - the ‘h’ in Katharina is silent but to make it easier I often go by Kat. As Koné Consulting’s newest member, I will be working as a communications associate with a focus on interpersonal and visual communication.

I recently graduated with both a High School and Associate of Arts degree through Running Start, a state-wide program that allows high school students to take college classes without paying tuition. I am ecstatic to share I have been admitted to the University of Washington, Bothell, which has a Media and Communication Studies program focusing on communications theory and how it applies to media practices. 

Working with Koné Consulting is a perfect opportunity for me to hone and focus on my dream of incorporating graphic design and communications work.

As a young biracial and bilingual woman, I know first-hand the importance of good communication, especially as it pertains to social justice issues. I look forward to learning from everyone at Koné Consulting, as well as assisting the health and human service work we do.

A big thanks to the Koné team for bringing me aboard!




Edmonds Homelessness Assessment Report

Although our travels typically take us out of state – most of the KC team resides in Washington State – last night we made a presentation in our own backyard. Headquartered in Edmonds, WA, we were recently awarded work by Edmonds City Council to identify the extent of individuals experiencing homelessness in Edmonds and resources available to them.

We value the opportunity to connect with hard working and earnest human services providers who strive to meet the needs of our most vulnerable on a daily basis. No one understands this more than Karin Ellis, consultant for this project, with over 15 years of experience working in health and human services, specializing in mental health, addiction and homelessness. Thank you, Edmonds City Council, for the privilege of working with you on this project. Take a look at the Edmonds Homelessness Assessment Report on the City’s site.

Ring in the new year! 2020 in Côte d’Ivoire

December 27, 2019—January 12, 2020

This Photo  is licensed under  CC BY

This Photo is licensed under CC BY

Join us for a memorable New Year’s Celebration as we kick off 2020 in Côte d’Ivoire! December 31st– New Year’s Eve – is a big night out in Abidjan, with the city transformed by sculptures of light and a spectacular fireworks display which is broadcast live around the country. 

In addition to our Travel With Purpose itinerary during which you’ll be immersed in Ivorian culture and have the opportunity to collaborate with locals on a community project, you’ll party like a local with our entire Koné Consulting Team as we ring in the New Year, Abidjan style! 

Our New Year’s trip is a pilot for future CI excursions, and as such, 

we are offering a “friends and family” rate to our clients.

Interested? We’d like to hear from you.

Going home

I recently had an opportunity to “return home” to my birth state of South Dakota during my birthday month of January (think polar vortex). I was there for a mixture of business in Sioux Falls, and the pleasure of visiting the few close family and friends I have left in the state. Almost all of the people I grew up with moved away from Brookings, the town where I grew up and home to South Dakota State University- go Jackrabbits! I moved when I was 16 and graduated from high school in the Seattle area, so I’m not even considered an alum of my old high school. But as they say, you can take the girl out of the Plains, but you can’t take the Plains out of the girl.

Brookings was a wonderful place to grow up during the 70’s and 80’s, surrounded by my mom’s extended family, including my grandparents who lived 12 blocks away. I learned important lessons about myself and life set against the backdrop of a small college town on the windy Great Plains.

This is Hillcrest Park in Brookings, SD during a recent visit Alicia made to the state. The park is near Alicia’s childhood home on Lincoln Lane in Brookings. She attended Hillcrest Elementary on the same block as the park and after should would ice skate at the rink that was behind the chain link fence in this picture. The rink is now a parking lot.

This is Hillcrest Park in Brookings, SD during a recent visit Alicia made to the state. The park is near Alicia’s childhood home on Lincoln Lane in Brookings. She attended Hillcrest Elementary on the same block as the park and after should would ice skate at the rink that was behind the chain link fence in this picture. The rink is now a parking lot.

One of the things I learned is the strong influence environment has on the local culture of the people who live in the place. Eastern South Dakota has harsh winters- they are no joke- and the Native peoples who first lived on the land, and the European settlers who displaced them- learned fast the only way to survive a Great Plains winter was to cooperate and take care of each other. I was in the state to meet with a state agency about their innovative strategies for providing services to their constituents, who happen to be inmates and formerly incarcerated individuals. I asked the state manager what driving force (leadership, legislation, etc.) caused these innovations to happen, and his response was, “There wasn’t. It just seemed like the right thing to do.” It is that can-do spirit of people pulling together to care for other members of the community, regardless of differences in political views, that I remember so fondly about my childhood in South Dakota, and it’s that value that I have taken into my work in public service.

In second grade I received my first lesson in gender politics at the Hillcrest Park ice-skating rink. I lived within walking distance of my elementary school and the rink. Once I was old enough, I would bring my skates to school and after dismissal I would go to the rink to practice for an hour by myself. (At the time I was dreaming of being the first Olympic gold figure skater from my home town- ahem.) It was also where the neighborhood boys would gather after school to play pick-up hockey games.

Not many days into my first winter of “intense” training, the boys singled me out and created a new game of, “first one to high-stick the chubby girl practicing her jumps wins.” (If you are not familiar with the practice of high-sticking in hockey, please see the World Wide Web for many video clip examples.) The pack of boys would skate at me at full speed, hollering and waving their sticks. At first, I tried to flee, feeling more like an Olympic speed skater than a figure skater. I usually ended up head first in a snow bank. I understood by this time that boys chased girls, especially when they were in groups, because they were both fascinated and afraid of us, even though they did a convincing job of passing themselves off as mean bullies.

Alicia hiking at Oakwood State Park, near Brookings, where her family had a summer cabin. On this recent day it was negative four degrees.

Alicia hiking at Oakwood State Park, near Brookings, where her family had a summer cabin. On this recent day it was negative four degrees.

One day after shaking the snow out of my hood, I decided I was done running, and I stood up to them. I told those boys to knock it off, that I had as much of a right to use the ice as they did, and that most importantly they were wasting precious daylight chasing me around. I proposed a truce that involved designating a larger section of the rink for hockey only, and a smaller section for practicing jumps. They, in turn, suggested I join their game instead. After some intense negotiations in which I was very much outnumbered, I set aside my dreams of being a figure skater and started working on my flirtiest slap shot. It was the first time I was confronted with the reality women of my generation have swallowed to claim our place in the history of gender equality- if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Women were still a minority in most professions outside of teaching and nursing when I was a girl. In many industries, it was common to be the only woman in a non-traditional workplace. As a small business owner and consultant, it is still common for me today to be the only female business traveler on the rental car shuttle bus at the airport. We have been compelled to join the male-dominated cultures in our workplaces because of majority rule. So, when I heard the President, during his State of the Union Address, quote the statistic that women filled 68% of the new jobs created in 2018, and I saw the largest group of Congresswomen in American history stand up and cheer, the significance really struck me. Now, more so than any other time in modern history, women have an exciting opportunity to claim our place on the rink and influence workplace culture and policies so we can pursue our dreams, too. Let’s make the most of it!

Forecasts, guesses, and the collapse of the sun

Some one told me one morning not so very long ago that the sun was getting a mile smaller across every ten years. It gave me a shut-in and helpless feeling. I found myself several times during that day looking at it anxiously. I almost held my hands up to it to warm them. I knew in a vague fashion that it would last long enough for me. And a mile in ten years was not much. It did not take much figuring to see that I had not the slightest reason to be anxious. But my feelings were hurt. I felt as if something had hit the universe. I could not get myself—and I have not been able to get myself since—to look at it impersonally. I suppose every man lives in some theory of the universe, unconsciously, every day, as much as he lives in the sunlight. And he does not want it disturbed. I have always felt safe before.
— Gerald Stanley Lee in “The Voice of the Machines: An Introduction to the Twentieth Century" (1906)

Magic 8-Ball says: “Outlook not so good.”

What’s the difference between a forecast and a guess? You can make a guess about the future behavior of some system intuitively. You can forecast the future behavior of the same system with a few data points, or with some terrific, road-tested model. It might not turn out to be a very good guess, or make for a very good forecast. But either way, you’re expressing a theory of some little corner of the universe, and you can use that to plan for the future.

In the case of old Gerald Stanley Lee worrying about the forecasted death of the sun, his plan was—so far as I can tell—to write an odd little book about machine aesthetics (“If the hill be beautiful, so is the locomotive that conquers a hill. So is the telephone, piercing a thousand sunsets north to south, with the sound of a voice.”) and to fret.

And in the case of the forecast on the right, I had the opportunity to teach my little boy how to use a gallon of RV antifreeze on some rustic plumbing. I think we bought the last gallon of RV antifreeze on offer in this county.

Some forecasts are more useful than others, but even a forecast that’s “just OK” can help you do better than guessing—by giving you a chance to get past your own cognitive biases.

Cognitive Bias Codex  by Buster Benson et al

Cognitive Bias Codex by Buster Benson et al

Of course, good guesses contain plenty of wisdom. Intuition and good judgement are real, and guesses come with a lot of experience baked in. So the challenge is to figure out the logic or theory behind an individual’s or group’s best guesses and incorporate those into forecasts. If the method of computing a forecast is open to display, people can argue about it and make the forecast smarter over time.

The most useful forecast is one that comes with some agreements about signals and responses built in. These are answers to questions like: How will we look at the data? How and when will we adjust the forecast? And, most importantly: If we believe this forecast, what should we do in response? This gets us out of the business of worrying about routine variation, or the suffering that comes from forecasting only the “happy path” where everything goes perfectly and without delay. We can take some of the energy we save and invest it in continuous improvement—trying to improve our systems so that our forecasted results move closer to where we want them to be. I’m grateful to be working with clients and colleagues who are doing precisely that.

I’ll leave you with two great starting points for thinking about forecasting as it relates to continuous improvement and group decision-making:

  1. “Measures of Success”, the most recent book by Mark Graban. Get the book here or hear why I recommend it.

  2. “Understanding Variation”, a classic little book by Donald Wheeler. Order a copy.

Thanks. -Brian

Humanizing Homeless Data

Every year during the last 10 days in January, communities around the country conduct an annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of people experiencing homelessness. In the State of Washington, the PIT Count will take place this Friday, January 25th. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities receiving federal funds to conduct a PIT count, and has since 2005. The PIT counts are important as they give policymakers, researchers, service providers, and advocates working to end homelessness a sense of where progress is being made and where additional resources are urgently needed. 

PIT count methodologies have improved over the years, including adding surveys to better understand why someone became homeless, where they were living before becoming homeless, and what the needs of people experiencing homelessness are. This information is important for many reasons, including increasing public awareness on the complexities of homelessness beyond what is visible in the community. 

There remain limitations to PIT counts, especially for unsheltered counts where there is more variation in methodology, levels of community coordination efforts, and more external variables including weather. In King County, where I live, the PIT count of people who are homeless and unsheltered is quite robust. Hundreds of volunteers gather at deployment locations at 2am and head out in teams to a designated area to conduct an unduplicated count of people who are sleeping in doorways, under bridges, in tents, vehicles, etc.  

Karin 012319 blog.jpg

During the years I worked with people who were experiencing homelessness, severe mental illness, and substance use, I led a team of PIT count volunteers through a Seattle greenbelt alongside and underneath an elevated section of Interstate 5. The experience was equivalent to hiking, an activity I very much enjoy, but different in that this was a 3-mile urban hike, in the dark, with loud ‘thud-thuds’ every time a car passed, with an increased awareness of both creatures and people in the surrounding woods. My designated area was just south of an area notoriously known as “The Jungle”. The Jungle was an unsanctioned encampment for homeless people for over 20 years before a shooting in 2016 led to officials fencing it off and attempting to resettle over 400 people living there. 

 Homelessness continues to be a crisis in the Pacific Northwest and many communities throughout the country. It is a crisis that I think is hard to understand without personal experience or a direct connection. I still think of the people we found living in that greenbelt area, especially when the narrative of homelessness as a choice arises.

Homelessness is also an issue that will take broad community efforts to address. I encourage you to search for the Point-in-Time count in your community to learn more about homelessness where you live and to consider getting involved in community efforts such as the PIT count to learn more about your homeless community members. 

Karin Ellis

Update: February SNAP Funded But Future Uncertain

USDA SNAP Letter to States 010819.jpg

In the midst the uncertainty created by the government shutdown, there was a little bit of good news last week when the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) released a statement ensuring that the SNAP benefits for February 2019 will be fully funded. We are extremely impressed and grateful for Jessica Shahin and the FNS’ swift work in coming up with a solution for February funding. As stated in the USDA announcement SNAP households will receive their February benefits on or before January 20th. As Dottie Rosenbaum mentions in her updated CBPP report, this ensures that the eligible low-income households and the newly applying will be able to receive both January and February food assistance and benefits.

However, one drawback that may occur due to the early February SNAP benefits is the lack of general knowledge on the issue, as the general public may not be as well informed on the current situation with SNAP funding. It’s already hard for SNAP households to stretch their monthly food budget, but this creative solution for funding has introduced a sudden shift in benefit timing. Altogether, it is a recipe for confusion. Low-income households and SNAP beneficiaries must realize that the benefits they are receiving now is for the entire month of February and must possibly last them into March 2019 depending on if there is an adjustment in the March benefits timing. It is our job to help inform our communities. Spread the word and remind SNAP recipients to plan and spend wisely.

Another drawback is the impact on all of the SNAP agencies and staff out there that determine eligibility and make sure accurate benefits get out the door every month.  We hear from our state and county clients that they are scrambling to get all of their February work done early in order to get benefits out the door by Monday.  Big shout out to all of impacted SNAP staff, and a big thank you for being hunger heroes in your communities!

We are in unprecedented times. We know that many of you, like us, are affected by the shutdown and concerned about what the future holds.  We will continue to do our part to keep our community updated as things unfold.  We are taking it one day at a time.



From Defeat to Hope

I’m writing this moments after the Seahawks first round playoff loss to the Cowboys. My heart is broken, as it is every year when we do not win the Super Bowl, but that is the case for fans of every team except the world champs each year.

However, I look back to what prognosticators were projecting before the year began. Take a look at this article outlining their “expert” predictions. 5-11, 4-12, the worst record in football (i.e. the first pick in the 2019 draft). Ugh!

The Seahawks saw many players depart in the off season. Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett were released. Cliff Avril retired with a neck injury and Kam Chancellor has been on indefinite IR for the same, and Earl Thomas was holding out. No one gave the team much chance of winning, but as always, Pete Carroll believed. He had faith in what he has been building over the last several years.

He had hope.

Now I’m watching post-game interviews with players and coaches. None are despondent, nor have regret. They are optimistic. They all say they can learn from this experience and come out better on the other side. They have hope.

In Pete’s weekly press conference from mid-December he said the following:

I don’t think there’s anything more crucial than hope. It starts with passion and perseverance and resilience. And with resilience comes hope. That you think that something is going to happen for the positive. It’s that hope that helps you hang through. We know that something good is going to happen if we keep battling. Nothing is more important than hope.

I feel like we are in a time in this world when many people are losing hope. There is much negativity and division. At Koné Consulting we work with agencies that are trying to fix some of what is broken in our world. Homelessness, hunger, poverty. Some days are difficult, but when I’m having one of those days, I think that if what we are doing helps one person in a time of need – if we can give them hope – it is all worth it.

In 2018 we worked with a local city agency in their endeavor to address homelessness in their area. As part of the work, we sought out people experiencing homeless and asked if we could talk with them. All were willing to speak with us and in spite of their circumstances, they were kind, honest and time and again, they expressed gratitude that someone, anyone, cared enough to ask about them.

As we enter into a new year, I encourage you to find ways to show compassion for other living beings, even in the smallest way. Engage in a conversation with someone less fortunate than you. Adopt a shelter animal. Donate food, money or time to a food bank. Volunteer somewhere. Talk with an immigrant about their experience. Offer to sit with an elderly person who is eating alone. Carry a few granola bars in your car and give them to people on street corners holding signs saying they’re hungry.

Small acts of kindness go a long way. It will give others hope and will do the same for you as well. And couldn’t we all use a little more hope right now?



Humanitarian Crisis At Home

Impact from the government shutdown is making news daily – currently federal workers and contractors are being hit hard, and if it continues much longer, it’s going to be detrimental for low-income people, and those among our most vulnerable. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg if our nation’s nutrition assistance programs are not funded by the end of January.

I encourage you to read the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report by Dottie Rosenbaum on the facts around SNAP funding - it’s a quick read. What stood out to me are these points:

  • 19 million households in the US currently get SNAP and they shop at 250,000 grocery stores and other EBT retailers

  • If an appropriations bill doesn’t get signed soon, FNS will be $1.8 billion short to cover February benefits, and in March they will have no funding to cover the $4.8 billion in monthly benefits

Grave Economic Impact

We know from FNS research that SNAP benefits generate $1.79 in economic activity for every $1.00 spent in a community, which means a loss of $3.2 billion in economic activity at those stores and suppliers in February, and $8.6 billion in March. That’s going to hit the whole food supply chain hard, including the thousands of people that work at grocery stores or the people that make and distribute food. Some of them are already the working poor and SNAP recipients.

Food Bank Crisis

To make matters worse, another FNS program to be impacted is TEFAP - The Emergency Food Assistance Program. TEFAP provides government commodities like produce, beans and rice to food banks. The program is funded through March, and then runs out of money. So, just as people start to flood the food banks because they don’t have a paycheck or SNAP, the food banks will run out of some of the most nutritious foods they distribute. 

Congress and the President must fund the government first, and then work on improving immigration policy and border security, otherwise there will be an indisputable humanitarian crisis here at home.

I welcome your thoughts. 


Alicia Koné 
Former SNAP recipient and former Washington State SNAP director