CIE Graduates Create Wonder Lab

Stephen Richardson and Yaelle Stempfelet report on their journey:


Our individual and collective experiences at the CIE/UMass Amherst were rich academically, and most importantly, allowed us to cultivate lifelong friendships. We feel our journey to create Wonder Lab, a consulting team that provides program design, technical support, research, and evaluation services for education programming across the humanitarian-development nexus, is an example of what is possible through these connections born at UMass. 


As a result of life circumstances that were significantly altered due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, we both found ourselves with the opportunity (and need) to embark on a journey towards consulting. For those that have experienced it, you know that it is one of both new and interesting projects but can also be one of solitude. We felt that in the era of remote work, with Yaëlle living between New York City and Antigua, Guatemala, and Stephen relocating from the Middle East to a small island outside of Seattle, Washington, there was a possibility to collaborate on meaningful work together. Thus far, it has proven successful. We are both at the stage of our lives where we care about the quality of our work and leading a balanced life where we can fully participate in the growth of our respective families.


Guided by this intentionality, we’ve created a community of consultants that engage both asynchronously and synchronously on critical issues surrounding education programming, the business of consulting, and the sharing of opportunities. Thus far, the Wonder Lab community consists of individuals from 4 continents, 11 time zones, and 13 countries, and continues to expand. It has been an amazing journey so far and we are learning and growing through it.


A recent notable example of our work that we’re especially proud of is the Youth needs assessment for and with Ukrainian youth residing in Romania and Moldova that we designed and conducted for the Norwegian Refugee Council. We could not have produced this work alone and relied on our collective professional networks to identify other sub-contractors, a graphic designer, and an illustrator for a product that organizations responding to the Ukrainian crisis can use to inform programming.


This is an example of our desire to bring together collaborative teams from a network of trusted professionals to identify practical solutions to complex challenges rooted in diverse experiences.


If you are interested in connecting about our work, collaborating, or to be a part of the consulting community, please reach out to us. [9-23]