Our work

We are changing who is at the table with decision makers.

Public Transit

Bus Rider Advisory Board: Working with Cincinnati METRO to improve our bus system.

Cincinnati Metro, with Darryl Haley at the helm, is committed to doing everything possible to improve our bus system and provide the best transportation service to every current and potential rider.

“Working with Cohear has been a complete home run. It has been so valuable to get these ideas and build these relationships with our riders — exactly what we were hoping for!”

Darryl Haley, Interim Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Metro

To help them do just that, Cohear organized and facilitated a series of focus group-style conversations between Mr. Haley and groups of "everyday experts" — both existing and potential riders — to help develop a pipeline of ideas for improvement. The goal: make the bus system better by listening to and implementing the ideas of those who use it the most, as well as those who are interested in using it more. That process ultimately led to the development of an ongoing "Bus Rider Advisory Board."

The Bus Rider Advisory Board met regularly with CEO Haley throughout the summer, and provided insights and guidance around key policies and strategies: helping take the guesswork out of what might resonate with customers, and spotting new opportunities.

Both the initial series of conversations and the Bus Rider Advisory Board have been instrumental in developing policies aimed at boosting ridership and creating a more friendly bus environment.

Cohear's partnership with Metro has already had meaningful impact in the lives of Cincinnati's bus riders. Thanks to the insights generated from Cohear conversations, leadership has already made substantial improvements, including:

  • Changing the Fare Deal program to be more accessible for seniors and riders with disabilities

  • Updating bus operator training curriculums to include more de-escalation and cultural competency training

  • Developing new marketing strategies focused on younger riders on social media

  • Encouraging rider courtesy through a new series of fun and quirky signs on the bus

We know that our public transit will ultimately need a new sources of funding to be the 21st century system that we need. No matter what, though, we need leaders who are committed to doing the best with the tools they have available.

We believe that the surest route to successful leadership runs through meaningful engagement with everyday experts. Progress and leadership go hand in hand with engagement and dialogue, and we are incredibly grateful to Darryl Haley, Metro, and our Bus Rider Advisory Board for coming together to move our city forward.

Women's Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation

Building Pathways to Economic


The Women's Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation is dedicated to breaking down the barriers that prevent women from reaching economic self-sufficiency, as well as providing women with a voice in important public issues. As they began planning their upcoming year of grant making and advocacy, they asked themselves: How can foundations best serve the communities they're trying to impact? That questions may not be fully answerable, but it definitely starts with building real, meaningful relationships with the members of those communities.

“This process has totally surpassed our expectations... and these insights were so powerful. This is going to totally change the way we give our grans.”

Meghan Cummings, Executive Director, Women's Fund

The Women's Fund sought feedback and insights to improve the programs and funding they provide, specifically centered around three key areas: the transition off of public benefits, finding and maintaining stable, quality employment, and the appointment of women to civic boards and commissions.

Cohear facilitated three conversations with a total of 30 everyday experts. The women who participated in these conversations were empowered to provide insights from their lived experience, and felt a sense of community with other women who shared that experience.

“We use the systematic support because we might be lacking those natural supports. So if there was a way to create those within a community... I might not have a car, but you do, and it's like, 'I'll babysit for you if you give me a ride to work until I get my paycheck.'

The core idea was that women described needing two things in order to thrive: access to financial and social capital. Programmatic help may be necessary to help people transition out of poverty, but there's just no substitute for the framework of stability that a strong community provides.

Other actionable ideas included encouraging employers to provide flexible child care options for their clients, graduated incentive programs for women transitioning to financial independence, and mentorship programs between women who have already navigated the cliff effect and those experiencing it.

Cincinnati Public Schools

Developing Anti-Bullying Efforts Using Student Voice

Bullying in schools is a problem that often feels too big to tackle alone — but for the students experiencing it and the teachers and administrators who try to intervene.

When Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Superintendent Mitchell Said she wanted to reduce bullying district-wide, we worked to connect CPS administrators and school board members to the experts: students who deal with this issue every day, as well as their parents, and principals.

“The ability to hear directly from people who are impacted by your decisions is priceless... The real key to Cohear's success is that these sessions are not only a valuable use of the decision-maker's  time, but also the community's time. Win/Win.”

Mike Moroski, CPS School Board member

We conducted 16 deep-dive interviews and six focus group style conversations with students affected by bullying, principals, teachers, and parents. We also researched policy and academics for best practices on how school districts across the country are thinking about these issues.

Students shared that they often feel ignored by administrators and school staff when they bring up issues of bullying, while many of those same adults said they wanted to create a positive cultural change in their schools but felt powerless to do so.

The main takeaway from students was clear: they want support in solving and responding to issues of bullying on their own. One of the students said it well: "Peers are really what students lean on... I was bullied a lot when I was younger... and I think if I had an older student there it would have helped me."

Peer mentorship and bullying support groups were popular ideas, and many students also wanted skills and training to help them confront their bullies in productive and meaningful ways on their own. Teaching students how to interact with each other positively from day one is essential, and mediation techniques need to be truly restorative, not simply punitive.

“Can we please have more groups?... That way you don't feel so alone.

L., 8th grader

Through these conversations, students parents, and staff were able to share their experiences, voice their concerns, and more importantly, offer their ideas for progress. These are the people who know what works, what doesn't, and what needs to change — and some of their ideas are already being implemented.

After this process, the school board invited a high school participant to spread their anti-bullying "We Dine together" student club to other schools in the district, and steps are being taken to implement peer mentorship programs for students affected by bullying.

This is an issue that touches the hearts of thousands of students and parents in our community, and millions more around the country, and we are proud that CPS is taking such intentional steps towards addressing it and moving forward, and of our role in bringing the voices and ideas of the everyday experts to the table.

Lead Service Line Replacement

Greater Cincinnati Water Works

Before rolling out a new program to help homeowners replace lead service line water pipes across the city, the Director of Water Works sat down with a range of homeowners to get their feedback and to discuss what could work, and what won’t.

The first Cohear conversation we did, we could not stop talking about it. We were just like ‘this is AMAZING.

Cathy Bailey, Director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works

The Issue

There are over 40,000 houses with lead service lines in Greater Cincinnati, owned by the homeowner, that need to be replaced (note: the water is treated, so it is safe to drink.) To prevent the risk of any nightmares like what happened in Flint, the Director is working to design a program that will help homeowners replace all of the existing lead infrastructure. Throughout the process, she is committed to asking a range of homeowners, “Will this work for you? How would you think about solving this problem?” But when she has tried to hold public meetings to get feedback, very few homeowners have shown up.

“This was an opportunity to learn about what’s happening in my community, and to provide input.

I was able to actually talk to someone who makes the decisions that impact me. And that’s a big deal. It makes a difference when the leader shows they really want to listen.”

Nia, Homeowner in Evanston

How Cohear helped

Utilizing our extensive network of Bridgebuilders, we organized a series of conversations with a diverse range of homeowners - all of whom have lead service lines that need to be replaced - about how the program can work for them, what would be affordable, and their questions and concerns.

Serving the Latino Community

Cincinnati State

The Dean of Cincinnati State wants to ensure that the college is serving the growing Latino community of Cincinnati, so he used Cohear to sit down with 15 parents from Mexico and Guatemala to explain the role that the community and technical college plays in Cincinnati, and learn how it could be most valuable for them and their families.

The Issue

Cincinnati State is the largest community and technical college in the region and views as part of its core mission to provide accessible education for diverse communities. As Cincinnati’s Latino population has rapidly expanded in the last 20 years and the College wants to ensure that its student body remains reflective of these changing demographics. The opportunity is twofold: how to attract and provide value for adults seeking to further their education, but for whom status and language can be impediments, and how to provide pathways to higher education for their children.

“We were originally skeptical about whether this was the best use of funds. But being able to target the exact target demographic was really impressive. This vastly exceeded my expectations. There was no way we could have assured that sort of turnout. This is money well-spent.”

Geoffrey Woolf, Dean of Humanities and Sciences Cincinnati State Technical and Community College

How Cohear helped

We organized a group of 15 parents and families from Mexico and Guatemala - all of whom came to the U.S. as adults, and have kids ages 12-18 - to sit down and speak with a dean of the College. The conversation was incredible. For the parents, they not only learned about how they utilize the college to further their own education, but how their children could benefit from Cincinnati State’s role in the higher ed landscape, scholarships, and pathways to careers and 4-year degrees. For the Dean, it was incredibly valuable to hear directly from potential students and parents of students about the barriers they faced, the questions they had, and most importantly, the ideas they had about how Cincinnati State could fulfill its mission to be more accessible for them.


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