Human Rights Watch

PEN America

Sesame Workshop

Giffords Law Center


Joyce Foundation

Researchers, strategists, andstorytellers for the world’s leading NGOs

We are researchers, strategists, and storytellers for the world's leading NGOs

Understory is a research and policy consulting firm.  

We work to advance human rights, social justice, and equity initiatives.  

We efficiently deliver creative, meaningful, evidence-based projects in service of a greater good.

Our Services

Research and Writing

Our clients turn to use for high-impact, high-profile research projects. With our deep expertise in qualitative and quantitative research, we help our clients tell stories that drive change.

Strategic Planning

Transformative social change requires a plan. In times of growth or inflection, our clients rely on us to deliver strategic plans that chart a concrete roadmap to achieve an organization’s vision.

Learning and Evaluation

When clients want to improve their key programs, they call on us to evaluate their current work. We gather candid perspectives from staff and beneficiaries, provide a constructive assessment of strengths and weaknesses, and identify concrete learnings to inform program improvements.

Data Analysis and Visualization

Data is an essential tool in making the case for change. Our clients count on us to transform data into actionable insights, and to capture these insights in creative and accessible ways.

  1. Understory guided Her Justice with invaluable wisdom and insight in helping us to define and draft our policy mission and platform. Sarah and Nasir understood the significance of articulating a policy identity true to our clients’ experience of the civil justice system. They were expert listeners in meetings with staff, and they excelled in using collective learnings to shape their recommendations. Understory’s work continues to provide guidance for ongoing and new policy projects, and their approach to policy work serves as a model for how we operate as a team and engage indecision-making around projects.
  1. –Rachel Braunstein, Policy Director, Her Justice
  1. Working with Nasir and Sarah was almost literally a dream come true. For years our team had wanted to improve access to violence prevention data and when we teamed up with Understory, with generous support from The Joyce Foundations, that dream became a reality. They were patient, understanding, adhered to their commitments, stayed on schedule even when their clients (us) weren’t able to, and continued to deliver high-quality, creative, innovative ideas and products beyond the point when our needs were met. If given the opportunity to work with them again, we would be delighted to do so.
  1. –Stefan Gingerich, Senior Epidemiologist, Minnesota Department of Health
  1. I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with Sarah and Nasir on several research projects. They approach their work with tremendous care, thoughtfulness, and concern for equity—resulting in work products that uniquely distill complex data into narratives which truly resonate with our audiences. On each project, Sarah and Nasir have gone above and beyond to collaborate with my team and incorporate feedback, resulting in final work products that perfectly suit our needs.
  1. –Kelly Drane, Research Director, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
  1. After an extensive search, we chose Understory to research and write an in-depth report on the history, impact and challenges of one of BRAC International's flagship programs for adolescent girls and young women. Sarah interviewed nearly 100 people, including staff, participants and external stakeholders, and visited four countries. Her methods of research and reporting told the story behind the story, going beyond the numbers to tell us more about a complex program than any one person within our organization even knew. In short, Sarah's a rock star researcher and writer.
  1. –Scott MacMillan, Director of Learning and Innovation, BRAC USA

What our clients are saying

Get in touch

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