Jara descends from free, stolen and enslaved people. She can trace her people as far back as the 1600s working, living on and eventually owning land from the territories of the Appomattoc (Westmoreland, Va), and since the 1800’s, working and living on the lands of the Minocan (Nelson Valley, VA) and the Lenape (Cayuga Valley, Ohio). Today, she often greets the morning from the territories of the Coast Miwok, also known as San Rafael, CA. Sometimes, she awakens on the lands of the O'odham and the Yaqui, also known as Tucson, Arizona. She loves dawn.
She is a middle-aged, Black, cisgender, heteronormative woman married for 27 years. She grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA where she went to an all-girls preparatory school (she wore both a tunic and a kilt) and spent an inordinate amount of time recording music from the radio onto cassette tapes (she still has some of these gems). She is one of two children of still-married, college-educated professional parents happily retired on the seventh hole off a golf course in Arizona.
An understanding of from whence she came is as important as what she does.
Founder & CEO
Cheryl has spent the past 30+ years providing executive support and project management in various sectors. (In fact, she was working virtually before we were all learning how to work virtually.) Cheryl finds comfort in process management and uses her operations and skills to juggle multiple projects and flex time to suit her needs. She is organized, analytical, and the person you always want on your team in a crisis because she doesn’t frazzle.
When she’s not in front of her computer, working behind the scenes, she is enjoying time with her grandchildren, taking walks, or tending to all her plants. Or a little bit of all of the above at the same time.
Executive Assistant & Operations Manager
To support people, organizations, and efforts in deepening their impact by interrupting habits and investing in new practices that link evaluative thinking and strategy and ground organizational values and purpose.
There is a fuller, honest expression of our shared histories and an understanding that our lives are interdependent and justice, equity and liberation are within reach.
core values & guiding principles
We engage in transformational work that gets us closer, collectively, to a place of equity, justice, and liberation.
We embrace laughter, joy, fear, sadness, perseverance, and an unrelenting commitment to not only doing but being different in the work. We desire authentic connection.
We have the power to open our imaginations, surface solutions, and, ultimately, shape new norms.
published writings & more
When Jara Dean-Coffey talks to colleagues about philanthropic evaluation, she makes sure to include a history lesson.
Chandler Foundation Interview (2022)
We need to talk about race.
The story of our nation is one of justice and freedom, but the unspoken truth is too many people are shut out of equal opportunities because of the color of their skin.
Edited by Alonzo L. Plough,
free e-book, (2022)
Deven Wisner, Tiffany Smith, & Libby Smith of Radical (Re)Imagining chat with Jara Dean-Coffey about what it means to show up to work with our values intact.
Video Interview (2020)
As we work to advance racial equity in philanthropy, four practices can help us find and stay with our learning edge—the boundaries of our comfort zones and competencies where changes are truly transformative and freeing.
Stanford Social Innovation Review (2019)
Knowing how race/racism has influenced both, philanthropy and evaluation, deepens our understanding of how philanthropic evaluation practice may unintentionally reinforce racism.
American Journal of Evaluation