Solution Stories

Envisioning & Embracing the Future

Thaler Pekar & Partners worked with the 200-member board of the Union of Reform Judaism to drive fast, effective alignment and communicate structural and programmatic changes to the North American organization.

Over three days, we guided the large group in shifting their culture by *Reflecting on and finding replicable and scalable moments of impact; *Practicing agility, in both speaking and listening; *Imagining the future – and inviting people to participate in its creation.

Following these collaborative exercises, we led board members in connecting the past, present and future, making sense of the changes, and practicing stories that invite people to participate in creating the future of the organization. This transformational process led to the successful expression of culture change.

Oral Histories & Strategic Planning

The Grass Foundation was about to undertake a strategic planning process, and realized they wanted to be more reflective before ploughing forward. Thaler Pekar & Partners was asked to gather oral histories of current and former board members, beneficiaries of the foundation, and colleagues.

Through these recorded oral histories, we connected the past, present, and future of the Foundation. We analyzed the interviews for emergent patterns, both complementary and contradictory; motivations and values; tensions; assumptions and aspirations; and other narrative aspects. We also teased out the Foundation’s own solution stories for further development and application.

Our analysis and reporting fed into and is influencing the strategic planning process. The Foundation has videos and transcripts to add their archives. And, bolstered with the confidence that comes from a shared sense of history and purpose, board members are adopting new and creative ways of moving forward.

Connecting a Company’s Past, Present & Future

Chile’s largest cable and telecommunications company, VTR, is confronting a complex and rapidly changing landscape: the introduction of new, technically advanced products and services, increased competition, and a regulatory environment in constant flux. Poised to venture into the provision of mobile services, VTR engaged 35 of their senior leaders in an exploration of the company’s narrative, and how the leaders could support – and spread – the “big story” of VTR through smaller stories and anecdotes. Through the elicitation, creation, and analysis of stories about the company’s past, present, and future, the leaders reconnected with the organization’s core values, gained a better understanding of the present situation, and are now better communicating the VTR vision.

Using Story to Explore Complex Situations

The Arcus Foundation sought to explore the experiences of their grantees who mobilized against an anti-homosexuality bill introduced in the Ugandan parliament. Thaler Pekar & Partners facilitated a layered storysharing session, in which twenty participants were prompted to recall, examine, and make sense of their experiences. Despite the multiplicity of individual stories, the exercise of developing a collective narrative helped to surface certain recurrent themes, challenges, characters, and positive and negative practices. The result was an inventory of the grantees’ collective knowledge and resources, mapped against a timeline of events during the crisis.

This program was part of a larger effort to assist grantees in understanding their overall strategies, goals, and assessments. The Arcus Foundation is “thrilled with the outcomes” and the program’s contribution to understanding movement building and the assessment of progress, especially in rapidly changing, complex situations.

Strengthening Organizational Alignment

Population Connection has a dynamic staff that regularly engages with donors and other partners–all while seldom getting the chance to engage with each other as a community. At their retreat on Maryland’s Easter Shore, Thaler Pekar & Partners directed Population Connection’s leadership and staff in sharing stories to celebrate past successes; to spotlight past and present struggles; to examine recurrent and emergent themes; and to narratively imagine their work’s near-future impact. The team said that the playful, experiential approach respected the diverse styles and personalities of those in the room and served to “coax out a beautiful array of emotions.” The facilitated stories, improvisations, and discussion extracted meaningful lessons from a vivid new archive of shared experiences. It gave staff a rare opportunity to learn about each other’s best practices, sources of inspiration, and resilience. The day-and-half-long program was itself a new shared memory, surfacing and ultimately reinforcing organizational alignment.

Inviting Audiences to Be a Part of Your Solution

Connecticut Health Foundation’s Leadership Fellows are constantly searching for powerful ways to amplify the impact of their work toward equitable health access. They engage with a wide range of stakeholders–government officials, lobbyists, community providers and practitioners, local religious groups, and recipients of services and coverage. Thaler Pekar & Partners delivered an intensive program on solutions-based messaging to the Fellows. This proven method of communication requires a profound shift away from the typical focus on problems. We provided the group with specific tools for avoiding the “problem trap” so as to energize and inspire audiences as co-deliverers of meaningful solutions. Participants were further supported with coaching in how to best vocally and physically deliver such messages, and with webinars focused on sustaining a solutions-based approach to communication.

Rallying & Strengthening a Communications Team

Kimberly Maki, Vice President, Corporate Communications, knew the success of Bright House Network’s new high profile marketing campaign depended upon her communication team. They, especially, needed to fully engage both customers and colleagues in hearing, understanding, remembering, and reinforcing the narrative of the “Hello, Friend!” campaign.

Over the course of two days, Thaler Pekar & Partners helped more than 30 senior executives and communication staff members explore the importance of narrative and story to their work and to the success and sustainability of the campaign. The team felt respected and assured enough to take apart what they do daily, discovering and delighting in new ways to apply narrative and story in multiple communication channels. Each team member was also professionally filmed sharing a story against a green screen, for use in both the internal and external campaign.

Bright House Networks is measuring the increase in narrative skills of the communication team, evaluating each member on both the quality and quantity of stories they find and share.

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Upcoming Events & Appearances

May 14-16, 2021
Association of Junior Leagues International, keynote Participatory Narrative Inquiry program

August 20, 2020
Defense Information School, Advanced Story Work

June 30, 2020
Penn State, oral history interviewing and story elicitation

June 30, 2020
Knowledge Network Group, European Union

April 14, 2020
Columbia University School of Professional Studies

March 25, 2020
"Equitable Communication", private client program

March 17-19, 2020
WBENC Summit & Salute, Nashville

February 4-7, 2020
"Beyond Understanding: Listening for Emergence", Frank Conference, Gainesville, FL

December 5, 2019
Dual Office Philanthropic Client, DC & NYC

December 4, 2019
Social Sector client, Mississauga, Ontario

November 18-22, 2019
Funders' Collaborative Strategy & Narrative, Copenhagen

November 14, 2019
Corporate Retail Client, NYC

November 7, 2019
Nationswell Summit, NYC

October 13-18, 2019
"Build Trust & Inspire Action ~ A 3-Part Method for Motivating Others", Opportunity Collaboration, Cancun, Mexico

October 4 & 5, 2019
"Beyond Understanding: Listening for Emergence", Communications Network, Austin

October 3, 2019
"Breakthrough & Story Your Future!", pre-conference workshop, Montana Nonprofit Association

September 24, 2019
"Why Story Matters to Your Leadership", Guide Dogs for the Blind

September 23, 2019
The Ethics of Working with Story, Northern California Grantmakers

September 17-19, 2019
"Building Big Narratives by Sharing Small Stories", Waggl Harvest: Voices at Work Leader Retreat, St. Helena, CA

Early September, 2019Documentary filming, Utah

August 19, 2019
Private Client, Princeton, NJ

June 25-27, 2019
WBENC National Conference, Houston

May 7, 2019
CTAM Communications Strategies Course

April 11, 2019
Storytelling and Social Change, Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers the State University of NJ

April 9, 2019
Presence & Engagement program, Anomaly, NYC

March 20, 2019
Starion Bank, North Dakota

March 19, 2019
North Dakota Council on the Arts


  • "WOW is the first thing that comes to mind. WOW, what a session that was. It was thought-provoking, it was imminently applicable and it was fun, great job." – James Heffernan, The Jedi Group Consultoria, Brazil

  • "Thanks for helping me become a vivid story sharer. Before I worked with you, I'm afraid I was a rambling geek with a Powerpoint presentation. Now, each time I deliver a keynote, I generate two or three more engagements from audience members. Big, big change thanks to you." – Dave Maney, Founder & Publisher, Economaney

  • “When I was calling around to check Thaler's references, one of her clients told me that she was thinking about asking Thaler to be her child's Godmother. After working with Thaler I realized that the client wasn't joking. It is rare to find a consultant like Thaler, with the right mix of expertise, intuition, centeredness, ethics and passion. As a client, I found Thaler innovative and delivering above and beyond expectations. As a participant, I discovered my storysharing abilities exceeding what I thought was evolutionarily possible.” – Damon Azali-Rojas, Director of Field Programs, Jemmott Rollins Group

  • "As a result of the group training and individual coaching that we receive from Thaler and Jay, Wellspring staff are presenting their work in ways that show more confidence and organization, while letting the passion for our work shine through." – John and Myles Taylor, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund

  • "I've seen another well-known presenter on story, and he made me curious. But what I walked away from your program with was immediately implementable ways to capture and use story in my work, and to benefit my organization." – Dawn Harbatkin, MD, Executive Director, Lyon-Martin Health Services

  • "Thaler directed us in focusing on which specific stories to share with our corporate partners. As a result, there was a lot more confidence going into our next presentation. It was well received and effective. We will follow this process for future presentations.” — Brendan Ennis, Director of Development, Food Banks Canada

  • "Thanks a million for stretching my thoughts and how I approach today and tomorrow." – Gary Cassard, former Vice President & General Manager, Bright House Networks

  • "I'm a storyteller by trade, in a company that lives by story, with a truly amazing story to tell. So, in some ways, we're already there. That said, I was inspired by Thaler's deconstruction of narrative, and pointers for listening and engaging." – Steve Cooper, Director of Product Marketing, Lytro

  • "Jay is the coolest. I love the way he presents. Thaler is smart as a whip. I can't wait to hear what comes out of her mouth next. Together, they are able to break down the components of engagement in a way that we were previously unable to diagnose, let alone approach.” – Vice President, Global Education & Customer Experience, major cosmetics brand

  • "I found several things from your workshop directly applicable to my recent presentation to my board, and all grants were approved, so it was a big success. Our board chair even applauded after my presentation – a first! Thank you so much for your wisdom and guidance." – Denise Joines, Program Officer, Wilburforce Foundation

  • “We couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Thaler Pekar & Partners really 'get it' when it comes to helping move organizations forward in creative and positive directions. They possess a rare combination of flexibility and professionalism." -- John Seager, President, Population Connection

  • "Thaler is a communications genius with an insanely great ability to see 'through' a problem or challenge and create a story-based communications strategy to tackle the issue. She is fun to work with and obviously bright but not ego driven. It has been a privilege to work with her each time we have hired her. What I love most about her is that much of what she does is value-driven." – George Heindrichs, Former President and CEO, Intrado