Creating and Managing an Anthropologically-Oriented Consulting Firm

Creating and Managing an Anthropologically-Oriented Consulting Firm: A SfAA Oral History Project Interview with Niel Tashima and Cathleen Crain

Tashima.jpgNiel Tashima and Cathleen Crain are the managing partners of LTG Associates, a consulting firm which they formed in 1982. LTG Associates is uniquely based on anthropological concepts and practices as well as owned and managed by anthropologists. Their work is done locally, nationally and globally for a number of firms and associations and is focused on planning and providing culturally appropriate health and human services. In 2015 they took LTG Associates in to the virtual world; and since then the company has operated in the virtual space. Both maintain effective participation in anthropological associations. Both have served as president of the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology and have provided other services to disciplinary organizations. Tashima received his undergraduate training at UC San Diego, and graduate training at San Diego State University and Northwestern University. Crain did her academic work at McMaster University in Canada. Niel and Cathleen are adjunct faculty in anthropology at the University of Maryland. The interview was done on April 1st, 2011. The interviewer was John van Willigen who also edited the transcript.

VAN WILLIGEN:  This is an interview for the SFAA Oral History Project with Niel Tashima and then a little bit later on Cathleen Crain will join us.  And it’s the first  (laughter) of April.  

TASHIMA:  Seems appropriate.  

Crain.jpgVAN WILLIGEN:  Yeah, I was a little bit worried about this, because this is not a mock interview.  (laughs) We’re in Seattle at the SfAA meeting.  So Niel when did you start being involved as an anthropologist?  What led you to anthropology?  Where were you and all that?  

TASHIMA:  Good mentors as an undergraduate, Joyce [B.] Justus was the first professor I took a class from at UC, San Diego.  She was asking interesting questions about why people did things the way they did. And I thought, ‘Well, this could be kind of interesting.’  And it was also a good option because I wrote good anthropology papers and wrote crummy organic chemistry tests.  (laughs) 

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.   

TASHIMA:  And it worked well.  And she got me engaged in several projects as an undergraduate that were just fascinating. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  You started out as a cultural anthropologist. 

TASHIMA:  Actually, I started out as a psychological anthropologist--


TASHIMA:  And the department I was in, UC San Diego, there was only psychological anthropology. And so I took classes, and I assumed that’s what anthropology was.  It never occurred to me that there would be a four-fields approach.  Because [at UC San Diego] those three fields didn’t exist.  And so you became a psychological anthropologist, acknowledging you were part of this cultural structure. It wasn’t until I started working on my master’s at San Diego State that I ran into the four fields.  And so I was sort of tooling along doing psych-anthro and having a perfectly good time. And so UCSD was a really interesting place to be at that time; it was a relatively new university, so there weren’t as many rules and regulations about how one went about getting a degree. And so I took classes in extension education and anthropology for my last two years, basically. 


TASHIMA:  And education was a fascinating place to be at that time, in the early seventies.  Because of the whole orientation towards cultural knowledge about educating high school students, and so the two fields fit together pretty well--at least in my mind.  And then I think the last year I was at San Diego, the American anthropology meetings were there, and my major professor, Ted Schwartz, was a student of Margaret Mead’s--Margaret Mead came and lectured one of our classes.  And in her lecture, she talked for about two minutes about her work in the Japanese camps during World War II. And this was the major project I was working on at that point.  And so I thought, ‘What the heck?  I’ll go ask this woman these questions.’


TASHIMA:  And so I cornered Margaret after class was over, and I asked her about this, and she said, “We should talk.  Why don’t you come up to the room I got and we’ll have tea?”  And so the university unbeknownst to us undergraduates--on top of one of the dorms had a wonderful suite that looked out over the Pacific Ocean and so for four hours, as the staff that serviced this--served us tea and cookies, Margaret had this four-hour chat with me about anthropology.  And we watched the sunset.  It was one of those wonderful things you do--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes, yes--

TASHIMA:  Wow, how cool.   

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s really remarkable.  And what do you remember about that encounter with--I mean, the things you might have talked about?  

TASHIMA:  It was a synopsis of her career which I found fascinating.  I mean, we’d all read her things. And because Ted had worked with her, there was probably a closer connection to her work. But she started in her Pacific work and work through her career.  It was just kind of a story of her life.  


TASHIMA:  And some of the intellectual challenges she had run into about being an anthropologist, being, and she didn’t call it an applied anthropologist, but she called it “working outside the university.”  I remember this very clearly and how that invigorated her academic work.


TASHIMA:  And I think that’s partly where my bias comes from, that the discipline needs both the professional and the academic side--that neither one of us will survive well without the other.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s a really a good point for you to bring up because people would be interested in that, you know.  At what point did you see the relationship, it dates from this period--

TASHIMA:  Yeah.  This is ’73, ’74, ’72.  Somewhere in there. And it was just a basis for what I thought anthropology was supposed to be and it wasn’t until much later that I started realizing what kinds of divisions occurred within the discipline, and sort of the historical process that all created for us. And trying to knit that together has been a fun process.  That’s partly why Cathleen [Crain] and I got engaged with Triple A and SfAA. When Yolanda Moses was president of Triple A she talked about the five fields and that practice was the fifth field. And I  like that.  I like that sense of integration, of partnership of how this all should work.  I’ve had wonderful mentors in the c--anthropology field all along.  Joyce Justus was one of the first.  Barbara Pillsbury at San Diego State was another one who pushed me to think very clearly about what it was I was trying to say about Asian-American mental health at that point.  


TASHIMA:  And as a graduate student at Northwestern, Francis Hsu spent the year talking with me about how he saw anthropology and his mentors.  It’s a very different orientation to learning.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So your last degree in anthropology was from Northwestern.   

TASHIMA:  Yesand I spent a year in a medical sociology PhD program before going to Northwestern.  I was in the last qualifying exam, and this was a, I think, a national computer data set on a computer terminal, and they gave you three questions, and you were supposed to come up with your analysis. I looked at it and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this.’  (laughs) ‘There’s no people involved in any of this.  I can’t talk to anybody.’  So I picked up my blue book and turned it in and walked out.  And figured I’d go home, work for a while, and try to do something with anthropology again.  And I--Francis was president of Triple A that year--


TASHIMA:  As long as I’m in Chicago, I should go talk with him about how he sees the of American Anthropological Association. And he kindly enough said, “Well, come on up, we can chat.”  And so we talked for a couple of hours, and he invited me to join the department as a graduate student the next fall.  


TASHIMA:  And so I spent a year studying with him as well as the rest of the faculty, but mainly talking with Francis about his view and experiences as an anthropologist.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And are you from California?  

TASHIMA:  Yes.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.  Southern California.  

TASHIMA:  Central California, actually, I’m a fourth-generation Californian, which puts me in a very unusual state for anybody.  


TASHIMA:  One of my great-grandfathers had a boarding house for Japanese people in San Francisco in the late 1880s. And my grandmother--his daughter--was born in San Francisco in 1888, I think.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And so you must have had relatives that were relocated.  

TASHIMA:  All the family was.  


TASHIMA:  On both sides.  And the community I grew up in was an exceptional place to grow up.  This was my dissertation research, it was an intentional Japanese-Christian community.  


TASHIMA:  And in 1907, a Japanese bank advertised for Japanese families from southern Japan on the West Coast of the US to come join this colony and create a Christian colony in the United States.  And so my grandfather was one of the first wave of immigrants to come, and our family has had roots there ever since.  And it’s been an interesting, very stable thing, and my mom’s side of the family, the family was living in one place in Japan. We can trace our history back to the 1300s.  And, you know, it’s a very bounded place  And that side of the family came to the US, and we didn’t move again, so my family’s--on my mom’s side--been in two places since the 1300s.  My generation and the next generation are scattered all over creation.  One of my cousins has been working in international development.  Cathleen and I move around a lot. 


TASHIMA:  But it’s been a very different kind of experience for my generation. And so anthropology’s kind of fit that all well together.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s really interesting.  So, when you were a graduate student, you had this early view of anthropology as having two aspects and that you want to emphasize both aspects and the interaction between them, and--I mean, you (laughter) thought on those terms.  

TASHIMA:  Yeah, well, alongside the anthropology, I was also learning to be a community organizer.


TASHIMA:  And so that was a very practice-action-oriented activity. This was the mid-seventies, and I got involved with the whole Asian American movement around community mental health. And it was an interesting place to combine research with activism.  


TASHIMA:  There were no community-based organizations in--and at that point there was the National Institute of Mental Health statistics, I think they had--Asian Americans had no mental health problems, because we didn’t go to services.  So the argument was, “Since you don’t use services, obviously you don’t have any problems.”


TASHIMA:  And within the community, we all understood that there were problems that communities couldn’t identify because you didn’t have bilingual, bicultural services. People wouldn’t go. And so it was all dealt with inside communities.  As soon as you started opening up community-based programs that spoke appropriate languages, you saw rates go through the roof which made NIMH even more uncomfortable because they said, “There’s lots of crazy people out there.  This probably isn’t good either.”  And once you normalized access, it started to even out again. I got involved very early in this process, and so I helped create the first Asian American mental health program in San Diego. I was a real gofer at that point setting up tables,  holding up the charts and things like that.  But learning how one works in community to organize around an issue.  And I was going to graduate school at San Diego State at that point.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And you were studying not anthropology, but--

TASHIMA:  No, I was doing anthropology. I was learning the community organizing from social workers who were doing it, and they wanted to know something about how you would research this.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Just briefly: What are some of the people that influenced that work?  

TASHIMA:  Oh, there was a whole group of Asian American social workers.  Anne Hsu,  Beverly Yip.  These are San Diego people.  George Nishinaka in Los Angeles. There was a very influential community-based organization in LA called special services for groups, and they were an NIMH grantee among other things, they did direct services in LA.  But they got an NIMH grant to form the first pan-Asian community-based organization, and it was called the Pacific-Asian Coalition.  They got a second grant from NIMH to form the Pacific-Asian Mental Health Research Center and I became the first full-time staff to that program.  And so I was learning community-based organizing in San Diego; I became staff to this national program where we’re talking about advocacy research that could be fed back to communities to demonstrate need and help create baselines and things like that and so I was learning from demographers and very few qualitative people.  They brought me to do that, which I thought was sort of interesting. But again, I was using good anthropology.  


TASHIMA:  And so I got to work with Filipino laborers up in the Central Valley of California, looking at how to assess their needs for healthcare and retirement programs at that point, working with a variety of human-service agencies in southern California to help form collaborations, and common agendas. And then in 1975, [as] staff, I helped create the Vietnamese mental health program at Camp Pendleton. And my boss at the time, who was the PI on the Asian American Mental Health Research Center, was a Chinese-American psychiatrist working at the VA in San Diego and at the medical school.  And as things started to unravel in Vietnam towards the end of spring ’75 he said, “I want you to do some background work on Vietnamese culture, because we will receive some Vietnamese sooner or later.  It would be kind of good if we knew how to do this from a mental health perspective.”  And so, you know, in a very short period of time, it was clear that there wasn’t any, and that was easy to tell.  He said, “Okay.  Well...”  He hooked up with psychiatrists of Naval Health Research Center of San Diego, and they were saying, “It looks like this is going to happen pretty quick.”  And we started doing our background work beginning of March of ’75, and on May first, we opened up a counseling program for arriving Vietnamese at Camp Pendleton. And it was sort of an amazing, bizarre, kind of scary place to be for eight/nine months.  But we worked with the arriving refugees and identified the first unaccompanied minors, which was an entirely new concept, because Vietnamese were coming as family units, and all of a sudden, individual kids started to pop up in the camp population that weren’t associated with people.  


TASHIMA:  And what we found out was that families were being given children by their friends to get out of the country, and once they got to Camp Pendleton, they realized that if you had a larger stated family, it was harder to get sponsored out.  So they would let these kids go.  And nobody had anticipated anything like this happening, so we had no response, and the response we created was to create a program specifically for them.  And these kids were probably the most traumatized out of everybody coming through.

VAN WILLIGEN:  I can imagine.  

TASHIMA:  And so by, probably by August, we had three hundred kids in the program and they ranged from infants through teenagers.


TASHIMA:  One of the interesting things was that San Diego City Human Services swooped in fall--I don’t know when--and said, “These kids need to go into our programs.”  And they took the kids out of the camp and denied access to everybody outside their system, so we have no idea what happened to them.  


TASHIMA:  And we had Asian American child psychologists and social workers who would work with traumatized kids, saying, “We should be allowed to help.”  And the system said, “No.  Because of confidentiality issues, we can’t allow you access.”  And so I think kids pop up every--well, they’re adults now--


TASHIMA:  But they pop up in different systems, and every so often, you know, I see a success story and I wonder, ‘Wow.  I wonder if that was one of the kids.’  Or you see somebody in real trouble--

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s what I’m wondering from the perspective of many years later  how their lives turned out. 

TASHIMA:  Yeah.  And through that there was a network of anthropologists across the country who were working resettlement that we ran into, met, and started to see at the association meetings, both SfAA and Triple A. And we keep saying we should do a retrospective at some point, because there were no systems in place, everybody was making things up as they went along, and a lot of it was informed by the anthropologist in whatever program that was operating.  So you had a chance to really engineer things, to listen to the cultural aspects, to listen to language and try to figure out how to make it work better. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh.  That’s really something.  Is there anything else from this, before you started the firm (laughter) that you that you think is important for me to know?  

TASHIMA:  I think one of the important things is that anthropology can be taught. But to become an anthropologist, I think you need mentors.  


TASHIMA:  And that’s one of the things I’ve had access to all along, are people--are anthropologists who were very concerned about me developing well as [an] anthropologist. And pushing me intellectually to be rigorous, to do the kinds of disciplinary work one needs to do to become a well-rounded anthropologist.  And so at San Diego State, I had to start over again, basically.  I discovered that archaeology and linguistics and biological anthro all have things to offer me in the work I do now, which is very weird but is kind of neat to see all that come together. And when I was at Northwestern, I did the same thing. Each time I went through a program, it reinforced the idea that anthropology as a holistic discipline is critical to the way you think.  


TASHIMA:  You may never go on a dig once you finish graduate school but having the discipline that is engendered by doing that kind of work forces you to think about other things when you’re marching through creating a questionnaire or looking at something.  It forces you to think differently. Because of the year I did in medical sociology, I know how you formulate questions and how you design work there. And the process is different.  I can design a whiz-bang survey that meets all their criteria, rigorousness and, um, methodological appropriateness, but it doesn’t really consider how people fit into this.  It doesn’t leave room for their interpretation of their experience to filter into the research process. And so when we design surveys that meets all the criteria a survey researcher would want but it also has room for people to provide interpretation. And, you know, in our professional world right now, that’s one of the critical elements.  But having that lineage of anthropology and talking to people like Francis Hsu who go back now two generations--


TASHIMA:  --gives you a fascinating historical perspective but it also says that the way we are trained to think is anthropology.  


TASHIMA:  And, that’s been the underpinning for what I do and how I think about this.

VAN WILLIGEN:  So, Francis Hsu is a later but important influence on the way you think about things.

TASHIMA:  Each of the people I’ve worked with have helped me focus and crystallize how to think like an anthropologist. And they’re all saying basically the same things, which I find, again, fascinating, that from Joyce Justus through Barbara and Francis, you get the same kind of perspective.  You understand how you frame questions.  How you see the world. And when I was in medical sociology, that didn’t happen.  And maybe it was the program I was in, but it wasn’t a framing conversation.  There are technical skills you developed and you had your overarching research question.  And as I go to meetings--as I talk to other people--again, that’s what I hear coming from them.  That’s the anthropology in all of this. And so we can sit and have these certain, far-ranging conversations, but it comes down to how you see the population you’re working with and the community you’re in.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I think it might be a good point to pause.

TASHIMA:  Okay.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So that we can get Cathleen’s perspective on her experiences.  And then we can talk together. 

CRAIN:  (laughs) So the first sound we heard was laughter.  (laughter)

VAN WILLIGEN:  And so, what led you to anthropology and where did that happen and what were some of the influences that had happened to you? 

CRAIN:  Well, I was going to be a physician from the time I was eight years old.  


CRAIN:  Eight years old.  I wasn’t going to be a nurse.  Nothing else.  I was going to be a physician. And I went through school planning for that; I was part of future doctors; you know I grew up with and all that geeky stuff.  Went into pre-med. I worked whenever I was in school, I worked as well. I worked in healthcare settings.  And what it did was it created a disenchantment for me with healthcare.  


CRAIN:  And I actually quit university in my senior year--I was not in anthropology; I was in pre-med--I quit university in my senior year and left. I didn’t know where I was going or why I was going there anymore, and I thought, ‘I’m not going to get a degree that doesn’t mean anything.’ And three years later, I was back on track and focused, ready to go into pre-med again, and by that time, I was living in Canada.  I had been living in Vancouver and moved to Ontario because McMaster University was starting a groundbreaking medical school that really focused on the whole person. And I thought, ‘Okay, this sounds like what I’m really interested in.’  And I got there; this is a convoluted story.  And I first got a job, place to live, then a job.  And then I applied for university.  And in Canada, if you’re going to get an honors degree--which is really the prerequisite to going to university--you take thirteen preparatory grades instead of twelve as in the United States.  So they looked at my transcripts, and then they took a year for my grade thirteen, and then they took another year because you could only transfer in at the second year, and they said, “Well, if you want to start in pre-med, you’re going to have to go back to your first year.”  And I’d done a lot of their prerequisites, but they weren’t accepting the transfer.  And I said, “Well, okay.  What’s kind of a parallel where I can just get through and do what I need to do?”  And I discovered physical anthropology--


CRAIN:  --and I said, “I can do this and I can take the courses I want to alongside of anthropology.”  I had no particular engagement in anthropology; it just looked like it had a good parallel to where I was going.  And I could continue to take appropriate courses.  And so I enrolled in anthropology, as a second-year student in an honors program.  And it was physical anthropology at the time, and I went through the program very rapidly, got deeply engaged in anthropology but had not given up my dream of medical school.  


CRAIN:  And McMaster had this fabulous medical school.  I worked full time at the medical center; I was a lab tech. And so, you know, it all made kind of good sense.  By the time I finished my undergraduate degree, I was in that program for three years. I was beginning to think that anthropology was making a lot of sense for what I wanted to do, which really was to affect how systems worked and make them work better for people. And it seemed as though anthropology was offering the promise of the ability to do that.  By the time I finished my undergraduate, I applied for graduate school in anthropology, even as I was applying for medical school. Some deep ambivalence here, I’d say.  


CRAIN:  Got into graduate school and along with my major advisor, helped to develop the first medical anthropology curriculum for my university.  


CRAIN:  And he made sure that the medical school, the medical center and its associated schools welcomed me to do courses alongside the medical students to enhance a medical anthropology curriculum--


CRAIN:  --a training for me, which was custom built.

VAN WILLIGEN:  And where was that?  

CRAIN:  In Hamilton, Ontario. McMaster University.  And this was quite remarkable.  They basically--between these two departments--custom built a curriculum--my graduate curriculum for me, so that I could do both a physical anthropology MA but also be taking courses which advanced my medical anthropology training.  


CRAIN:  Because it didn’t exist then. And so we put this coursework together for me.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So, are you a Canadian or an American?  

CRAIN:  I’m an American, and I lived in Canada for about eight-and-a-half years. I ended up doing university in Canada. My undergrad--graduate and my graduate university--I abandoned my degree in the United States; I was so done with it.  I was over it and started back again in Canada and graduated summa cum laude.  I was a university scholar.  It was a totally different experience going to school there and when I did; I was obviously ready for it and had a better vision of it. This was a traditional four-fields school.  


CRAIN:  We took all four fields, and we were required to be proficient.  And even having said that--and it was a very academic school--I was very clear that I had no interest in academic anthropology as a career.  I didn’t recognize--at that point--that there was some sort of odd division between the academics and practitioners. They shielded me from that.  I came in planning to practice; they nurtured me through my undergraduate and my graduate degree, and then when I said--and I was offered--I was offered a PhD program.  I was offered to go to other universities.  I was offered a PhD in biochemistry from the lab I worked in, and I said, “No.  I’ve done what I need to do.  I don’t need a PhD; I’m not going to teach.  I’m ready to go.”


CRAIN:  And left.  And never, ever did anyone suggest that either my interest in practice or my decision to go out and be a professional anthropologist with an MA was less than a good and proper decision to make.  I went back for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the department a few years ago--


CRAIN:  And I said, “Thank you.  I never knew I was less than.  I never knew that this was a bad decision to the world.”


CRAIN:  “You made me believe, and it gave me great confidence to know, that I was ready.”  “And that I could go and change the world if I wanted to.”

VAN WILLIGEN:  So it was a four-field, traditional--

CRAIN:  Traditional.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  --quite academic.  

CRAIN:  Quite academic university.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And with no particular advocacy or--

CRAIN:  Nothing.

VAN WILLIGEN: Of a negative attitude towards application.  

CRAIN:  Nothing.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  It was neutral.

CRAIN:  They basically said, “What you decide you want to do is what we’ll support.” And they supported me completely.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.  Who are some of the people there that you--

CRAIN:  Oh, Ed Glanville was my--and he’s a medical anthropologist--physical anthropologist, was my major, major advisor. Bill Rodman, Pacific specialist.  Matt Cooper, who taught me discipline. He taught me discipline in my thinking.  


CRAIN:  And I say thank you to Matt each and every day.  Richard Slobodin was a major professor there.  Sid Mead, who is the first chair of Maori studies in New Zealand, He is Maori, was there then.  Ruth Landman was at McMaster.  Emoke Szathmary.

VAN WILLIGEN:  Emoke Szathmary?  

CRAIN:  Szathmary--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Szathmary.

CRAIN:  --who ended her career finished her career a couple of years ago as the chancellor of University of Saskatchewan, I believe.  And she was an internationally recognized physical anthropologist.  

CRAIN:  I was at the Triple A, five, ten years ago, and I walked into a session, and there were these young women standing at the back, talking, and I don’t remember exactly what one of them said, but I said--I spun and I said, “So you were one of Emoke’s graduate assistants as well, were you?”  Something she said, “And she terrified me, and I admired her so much, but she terrified”--and that’s exactly how I felt.  I was one of Emoke’s graduate assistants, and she was a take no prisoners kind of academic and she was brilliant and you damn well better get the job done.  


CRAIN:  And it was very funny, because she said, “Absolutely.”  And I’ve met a couple of other of her graduate assistants over the years--

VAN WILLIGEN:  So one of the things that you learn in that context that is really valuable for what you do now is discipline.  

CRAIN:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Mental discipline, physical discipline as well.  I mean, going into the field, whether it’s sitting in an interview or it’s sitting on a mat on the grass, or it’s standing on a street corner for hours--takes a remarkable amount of discipline.  


CRAIN:  And I’m not sure it’s something we very often talk about but doing it and continuing to be focused having the discipline to gather the information without necessarily [having] regard for your own comfort, safety, yes; comfort, no.  


CRAIN:  But also logical discipline. Does it follow?  We as qualitative people are constantly bombarded with the idea that what we do isn’t real science--


CRAIN:  It is if we are disciplined about our methods.

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes. In the primary source form, in your learning discipline about your methods was her?

CRAIN:  Matt Cooper was the first one; he taught me undergraduate methods, and Matt had a way of trapping you in logic if you weren’t disciplined about what you were hearing.


CRAIN:  If you bought his first assumption you were dead meat. And he taught me never to buy a first assumption that I wasn’t willing to take home.  He taught me to always challenge the logic of what I was seeing and what I was thinking and what I was writing.  And to be very certain that my logic was clean.  And I talk about a bright line, and I talk about this at the office and I talk about it with students, it has to be a bright line in your logic.  It can’t zig-zag. 


CRAIN:  --linear logic is important.  Cultures may not follow a linear line, but you need to be able to create the logic that strings them all together.  And that’s a critical part of our discipline.   Emoke just reinforced that.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes.  When you graduated you just immediately thought in terms of a practitioner career.

CRAIN:  Absolutely.  I was going to be a practitioner.  I was the first, um what was the title?  Anthropologist-therapist in a clinical setting in southern Ontario.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  That was the title.  That’s very rare.  

CRAIN:  Yes.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  There are other cases that I’ve heard of but it’s very rare.  

CRAIN:  And that was in 197--oh, ’75? Seventy-six?  I had a background doing counseling and therapy and someone brought me an ad from The Globe and Mail one day and said, “They’re looking for you.”  And it was at a regional substance abuse treatment center for Southern Ontario.  


CRAIN:  And they were looking for an anthropologist with counseling background.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And the job was in Toronto?  

CRAIN:  It was actually at the Chedoke Medical Center, in Hamilton.  Which was the regional--


CRAIN:  It wasn’t--you’re thinking of NDRI, which was in Toronto.  But that was a research setting.  This was a regional-treatment setting.  And so as the first anthropologist-therapist, I helped to create the treatment program along with a sociologist and a psychologist and a nurse and it was a remarkable--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Right.  And that was the actual title?  

CRAIN:  Anthropologist-therapist.  


CRAIN:  Yeah.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s really unusual.  I mean, because there are like almost zero.  I mean, it’s not zero, but almost zero that were--

CRAIN:  It was one of my prodigal moments.

VAN WILLIGEN:  Very few--very few--that’s really interesting. What kinds of things did you do on a day-to-day basis?  

CRAIN:  Oh.  This was absolutely amazing.  I mean, the team helped to create the entire therapeutic setting.  Once that was done, I was the person who did all cultural assessments. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh.  I see. 

CRAIN:  And what I would do is if someone came in--we dealt with First Canadians; we dealt with Eastern Europeans, all kinds of people who would be in need of specific cultural support.   And who might not respond as well as others to the general approach.  And so my job was to do all cultural assessments, and the sociologist and I did all intakes.  All intake histories.  Because part of our job was to screen for special needs such as a cultural special need.  And so he and I did all the intake assessments, and they ran two, two-and-a-half hours. They were serious histories.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see. I bet they’d be really interesting reading.  

CRAIN:  It was fascinating.  And then if there was a cultural component that we assessed to a client’s treatment, that I would do a cultural assessment, and then I would basically prescribe to the treatment team how this person should be managed through treatment.  And I would check in periodically on--they wouldn’t necessarily be assigned to me or to my treatment team--


CRAIN:  --but I would have, you know, a relationship to the treatment team just to see how it was going.  And it was a remarkable position to have because I had dropped out of university the first time being out a little while and then went back, I was a little older than most MA graduates would have been.  I was in my late twenties when I did this.  And had a strong counseling history.


CRAIN:  And then I took extended training through the through the treatment center, so I took greater training while I was at the center.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So it was very much a team approach.  

CRAIN:  Absolutely.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And then there were different disciplines represented.  

CRAIN:  Yes.  And my treatment team included a nurse and a social worker, and you know, all treatment teams had three people.  


CRAIN:  And that way there was always someone to whom a patient could relate or to whom a patient could relate in at any one time.  So no one was ever left without someone that they could reach out to, that they knew.  This was a thirty-day, inpatient treatment, and then people would go home, but they would be in aftercare for, I think two years. So it was a significant commitment.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  This was a provincial agency?

CRAIN:  Yes. It was a regional treatment center and people came from all over southern Ontario to this treatment center, so it was--

VAN WILLIGEN:  But it was supported by the province rather than the--

CRAIN:  I’m thinking yes. I left there, but while I was there, I finished my thesis which was on communication patterns in an alcoholic treatment program based on the communications theory.  So I was a participant-observer which was very challenging, and finished up my thesis while I was working there.  And graduated in ’78.  Left Canada, went back to San Francisco where I was first a consultant when I got back?  I worked in the San Francisco city and county jails as director of research and evaluation for a prisoners’ health project.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So you’re from San Francisco?  

CRAIN:  I’m from the Bay Area originally, yes.  


CRAIN:  And so I worked in the jails for a couple of years and did research and advocacy around prisoner health, and then that project ended, and I did some consulting, and then I became  Director of the Indochinese Health Intervention Project, which was a very large translator/interpreter service for incoming refugees into San Francisco, which numbered up to 500 a month at one point.  And one year we did 27,000 incidents of service, and I moved up through that system eventually becoming director of refugee services and then associate executive director of Catholic social service in San Francisco. It was a Catholic agency, but it was funded with federal dollars.    

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes.  That would be a massive program, it seems to me.  

CRAIN:  It was huge.  It was huge. It was very, very large, and I ran under me were, a health program, an employment program, resettlement programs, English--English access programs, something else. This is a long time ago.  And so I was over all of those programs and left San Francisco in ’83, to become director of refugee services for the American Council for Nationality Services in New York.  


CRAIN:  They’re voluntary agencies that do all resettlement under a state-department contract basing us with the second largest after the US Catholic Conference.  And it is now called something else, and I can’t remember what it’s called.  But I was their national director of refugee services.  Stayed there a year.  By this time Niel and I had already met; we met in San Francisco and decided we really enjoyed working together. I had done some consulting with his agency on the development, and he may have told you about this of a mental health program in Orange County.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So you first got to know each other in the context of working on doing one of the projects from his agency.  

CRAIN:  Actually, Niel came to interview me, because I was providing services to Asian Americans and they were doing a national research project on Asian American health and mental health services.  


CRAIN:  And so we met when his project he and two of his colleagues came to interview me about what we were doing.  We basically knitted together an entire healthcare system for refugees in San Francisco by bringing the best services we could find in San Francisco together.  We created the glue.  We did all of the appointment making.  We did all of the transportation  and we did all of the interpreter and translator work and made sure that people got to their appointments, so we supported specialty clinics for maternal and child health pediatrics. Whatever needed to happen we would create with a health organization, a hospital, a clinic.  And then my people would basically staff it for them and be the conduit for people into their clinic.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes, and this would be in an era where there was little history of doing this and a very rapid increase in the need.  

CRAIN:  Huge.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes, and so there was this splicing things together that made sense and making judgments on the run, basically.

CRAIN:  Yes, and we’ve I figured out pretty rapidly that enlightened self-interest rules the world, and there were clinics with capacity and not enough people, and that I had clients with health insurance, and so it was kismet.  And it simply took a little entrepreneurial spirit to figure out how to bring that together.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.   

CRAIN:  And it worked very well until the federal government decided that they were only going to fund one place for all healthcare for refugees, and that was San Francisco General Hospital.  This happened after I had already left, and it was tragic, because--


CRAIN:  --what we were doing was weaving these people into these mainstream services creating an interest in having them in the services instead of leaving them in the one major public health hospital, which really couldn’t support them as well as they needed to be supported, so it was--it was unfortunate.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So in relationship to this, it’s always been my perception that the two of you created the firm.

CRAIN:  In 1982.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes.  And so that was done together--

CRAIN:  Yes.

VAN WILLIGEN:  --and you met in this encounter, in working on a project together.  And is there something prior to the firm that I need to know about?  Or any projects, or things of that nature that--

CRAIN:  That we did together?  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I’m not thinking that I’ve gotten up to the point where--

CRAIN:  Right.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  --this joint project started.  

CRAIN:  Right. Well, what happened was that Niel came to interview me for his study, he interviewed many, many people.  And we hit it off, and when his group was asked to come to consult in Orange County on mental health issues for refugees, he asked he had been impressed with what I had been able to weave together in San Francisco for the refugees so he asked me if I would be willing--and my boss said I could moonlight on the weekends.  And so for six months, we drove from San Francisco to Orange County--we would spend the weekends there working on the needs assessment, essentially, and then on Mondays we would both go back to our jobs.  And at the end of it, we reported out to the refugee groups who had brought us in, and we said, “You certainly could run a wonderful,” you know, “mental health program, except no one’s going to pay for it.”


CRAIN:  “They’re defunding mental health services.”


CRAIN:  So what we helped them to do over the next two years was to create the community resource opportunity project--better known as CROP, which is a community development organization and that was really our first project together under Niel’s organization was that we helped to create this community development organization.  


CRAIN:  Community development corporation.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And the firm didn’t exist at that point, right? 

CRAIN:  Didn’t exist.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  It was probably some sort of prototype for projects, basically.  

CRAIN:  Yeah.  And it was--it was great fun, and at the end of it, we both said, “Well, that was interesting.  That was fun.”   


CRAIN:  You know.  We were both, I think, getting ready to move on from our current jobs and we said, “Well, why don’t we create a circus?  Why don’t we make a consulting firm?”

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.  And this might be may be a good time for the three of us to get together. 

CRAIN:  Yes--

VAN WILLIGEN:  And talk.  

CRAIN:  --that would be good, and the only thing that was separate was that I went onto New York to work for ACNS for a year before I moved to Washington to open our DC office.  


CRAIN:  American Council for Nationality Services-- 

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.  Yes.  

CRAIN:  --which was the big VOLAG.  Voluntary agency, I’m sorry.  (laughter) No, that’s what they called them.  There’s all--there’s all kinds of inside refugee settlement language and the voluntary agencies were called volags, which--when I first started there, I thought it was a Russian social club, you know?  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Right. And, you might I would be interested in both of your perspectives on where the idea of creating the firm came from.  You might even argue.  (laughter)

CRAIN:  Sometimes we do--


CRAIN:  --so I guess I remember it well.  

TASHIMA:  Driving up and down California.  (laughs) We were helping to design a mental health program for Southeast Asians in Orange County, California.   

CRAIN:  See, high degree of congruence in our--

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s what I think.  

CRAIN:  (laughter) It’s good.  No prompting.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  All this, I already knew it.  (laughter) 

TASHIMA:  Yeah, it sort of worked well, and if you can spend what little free time you have in life--driving up and down California--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh yes, yes, yes, yes.  And so you figure it grew out of those conversations.  

CRAIN:  Oh yeah.  

TASHIMA:  Um-hm.  

CRAIN:  We were concerned about the course of development for a number of the refugee communities  and the organizations that would serve them and how they were developing and thought perhaps this was an area in which we could be helpful, and so that was really how we founded it. It was a California company.  We intended to be in California and to work in California. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  My perception was always that it was a Washington company (laughter). I went onto with this confusion.  I mean, I would get confused about the, what is it, Turlock?  And  you know, you’d say “They must have taken a project later”--(laughter)--“that put them there,” you know?

CRAIN:  There’s a story.  And Niel was living in LA.  I was living in San Francisco.  


CRAIN:  And I took the job in New York--


CRAIN:  --because it promised to give us even greater reach and to give me greater training as a professional.  While Niel continued on doing our company work, I went to New York to work at ACNS.  When I had, I’m being recorded, so I will think about how to say this.  (laughter) When it was time to move on--when I determined I was no longer going to do that--we talked, and--and LTG continued to exist, and we determined that the source of so much policy and funding for our clients was Washington, that it would really that it would really be helpful if we had a Washington presence where we could learn more about the process, how policy was made, how funding decisions were made, because our clients were at the distal end of that, and it was clear to us, having both worked on national projects, that being that far away put them at a distinct disadvantage.  And so we all agreed that I would go to Washington, DC, and found our Washington office. Within a couple of years, Niel decided--who--he’s originally from the Central Valley.  We determined that LA was not a viable place for human beings, and that it was important for people to have a good quality--(laughter)--of life as well as do good work.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  So Turlock is in the Central Valley?  

CRAIN:  It’s in the Central Valley.  


CRAIN:  Yeah.  

TASHIMA:  You sort of have a--(laughs) a different quality of life, there.  (laughter) 


CRAIN:  The food isn’t as good as San Francisco, but, you know.

TASHIMA:  That’s true.  

CRAIN:  What are you going to do?  

TASHIMA:  But you can now afford a house if you got any money left--


TASHIMA:  --and, if you come with a job, you’re in really good shape.  But the county--we’re in Stanislaus County--has the second- or third-highest foreclosure rate in the country, and, I think unemployment’s running around eighteen percent.  


TASHIMA:  Yeah, at one point it was up to twenty-five percent. 

CRAIN:  But Niel moved--Niel moved the LA office out into the Central Valley, and I established the Washington, DC, office. And again, we weren’t--we were in Washington in order to learn not to become a federal contractor.


CRAIN:  Niel continued to lead our refugee work in California driving tens of thousands of miles a year up and down the state of California to work with our refugee clients many of whom were we worked with model organizations. We worked with southeast Asian general organizations. We worked with county organizations working with refugees, so it was a remarkable amount of focus on some small organizations.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Did you develop early in the process a business plan, consciously? And, (laughter)--

TASHIMA:  Well, we--

CRAIN:  Yes, we did.  (laughter) We did.  

TASHIMA:  And we continue to develop business plans.  It’s part of our--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yeah, I actually--(laughter)--I know that ideas just emerge and then you--often people later on the developer will rationalize the model for it.

CRAIN:  Well, there was some of that, too.  Yeah.  (laughter) But in Washington one of the things that happened was that we began to serve refugee organizations and refugee serving organizations in the metropolitan DC area and so we were really then in two areas, doing roughly parallel work with refugee organizations.  We expanded to working with Ethiopians.  We did a national listening tour with Ethiopian leadership across the United States to find out what Ethiopian refugees needed across the country. That was a six-country--six-country--just seemed like countries, you know?  Six--

TASHIMA:  Well, at that point they could have been different countries.  (laughs) 

CRAIN:  --state listening tour with--with Ethiopian leadership helping them to set this up and facilitate it.  We began to work in other states with refugee projects. We ended up doing a lot of work in Texas at one point on refugee issues, many, many Texas cities.

VAN WILLIGEN:  And did you have any models for your firm that were important in your planning at all?

CRAIN:  Anthropologically based--other anthropologically based firms?  No.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I don’t think there, they’re rare, I mean.

TASHIMA:  (laughter) One of our colleagues in San Francisco started doing this, you know, “We’re not anthropologists.” So we’re committing professional suicide.  (laughter) 


TASHIMA:  Yet we had good jobs--

CRAIN:  Yes.  

TASHIMA:  --doing the kinds of work we were doing, and networks that reinforced this and you knew how to get funding to bring things together and make things happen.  And we sort of walked away from that and said, “There are needs we can’t address by being in these kinds of contexts.” So if we created our own firm, we can go and do things that are actually compelling.  Because it’s a challenge every day to do this.  They provide services and resources in places that don’t have them and anthropology as a resource is a very rare commodity at the moment, and particularly in Central California where we started, it was nonexistent money.  There are universities around--and we did thoughtful reaching out to them and trying to engage them and discovered this wasn’t what they saw themselves as doing, which is what many universities do, and that’s fine.  


TASHIMA:  We just didn’t want to walk into someplace somebody was already doing things and say, “Hey, we’ve set up shop.  We’re better than you are.” But we did a very thoughtful process--we went through a very thoughtful process, and we continue to do this with local universities.    


TASHIMA:  And so it’s been interesting finding this niche that we see as our business but nobody else is really being interested in doing much about it in the Central Valley. The Central Valley LPO has started to do that, and that’s really nice to see.  But again, the kinds of things we do where you do anthropology every day is not something people see as a business.  

CRAIN:  Yeah.  And it was interesting, because over the period of time we’re talking about was--I went to DC in ’84. And from ’84 to ’87 is basically the period we’re taking about, where almost all our work was refugee focused.  And there’s a Y in the road  that happened in ’87.  


CRAIN:  And we received--we were responding to (laughter) an ad to do some team teaching, and--

TASHIMA:  Well, we wanted to turn it into a team-teaching seminar.  (laughs) 

CRAIN:  They were looking for somebody to teach refugee resettlement at Cal State University, Long Beach, and because Niel was--you know, in LA, we thought he could teach it most of the time and then when I flew in, we could team teach.  And so we responded to this ad and we got an interview.  And I do not remember who it was--this was long before Bob Harmon was…

TASHIMA:  Chair.  

CRAIN:  --chair in 1987, and we were talking with the chair.  Nice woman.  And in the middle of our conversation--she was talking about what we had done, what kind of experience we both had--and in the middle of it, she sprang out of her chair and said, “Wait here.”  And ran from the room.  And we sort of looked at each other and we thought, ‘What did we do wrong?’  (laughs) And she was gone for like, fifteen or twenty minutes.  And she came back with this man in tow --and she said, “You all need to know each other.”  And we said, “Okay.”  Well, it turned out that Cal State had a cooperative agreement with the CDC to do HIV/AIDS prevention work in Southern California.  


CRAIN:  And that they had to do an ethnography they had to reach out to sex workers and they’d had a difficult time doing that.  And they said, “Could you do that?”  And we said, “Sure.  We can do that.”  But--you know, we’re anthropologists.  (laughter) We can find anybody.  And they said, “Well, can you send us within the next week how you would do this?”  And we said, “Sure, we can do that.”  And we went away, and we were driving up the state of California starting the next day, and we looked at each other and we said, “Sure we can do that?”  (laughter) And what we did as we went up the state was we had a laptop, and we took turns, and we created a method that would allow an organization to systematically move out into a community to understand who they are, what their needs were, what their beliefs were.  Over the next six months, we interviewed--this is—“we” writ large, because we had a team that we trained--335 out of treatment IV, drug users and others.  And basically showed--turned out a picture to Cal State and through them to the CDC, of what the population of drug users looked like in Long Beach, California. And it was a nuanced, complex, interesting picture that started with the people who serve IV drugs users.  It was IV and other drug users.  And we--we simply moved out from there through systems and networks to create this network and to bring people in to interview them.  And CDC saw this and asked if we would tailor our method for their cooperative agreements, and so we were brought into CDC and the method is called the community identification method, or CID which has been used since 1987 as part of CDC’s formative methods, and is part of what’s called an EBI-DEBI, an evidence-based intervention. There’s a rigorous process by which something becomes an evidence-based intervention, and CID is part of an evidence-based intervention.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I heard you say “EBI-DEBI”?

CRAIN:  Right.  EBI is evidence-based intervention.  DEBI is diffusion of evidence-based interventions.  So CDC sets about diffusing these methods so that their grantees and others are using evidence-based methods.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And this was the first project of the firm?  Or the project of the firm that--

CRAIN:  It was the one--

VAN WILLIGEN:  --project that led to the development--

CRAIN:  No, it was. 

TASHIMA:  (laughs) It--after that--

CRAIN:  --1987, and we’d been working together since ’82. 


CRAIN:  Actually since ’80/’81. But it was the Y in the road. We had only been doing refugee work up to that point--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh, I see.  

CRAIN:  --and it was the project that took us out of refugee work--it took us to a national audience, to a national arena, it launched us to working with the federal government, it was really a seminal project for us, and we need to acknowledge that the person who brought us into the CDC was an anthropologist.  

TASHIMA:  I think the only anthropologist on staff in Atlanta at the time.  


TASHIMA:  And the refugee work we did, there were very few people doing it at the level we were working at that point in terms of anthropology.  There were maybe ten, twelve people--

CRAIN:  Yeah.

TASHIMA:  And we all knew each other.  

CRAIN:  We all knew each other.  Peter Van Arsdale was one.

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh yes.  

CRAIN:  And [Dwight Reining?] was another.  

TASHIMA:  [Reining] was another.  

CRAIN:  There were a dozen of us maybe.

TASHIMA:  And we knew all seeing each other, at meetings and compare notes--


TASHIMA:  --but that was sort of the first thing we did as a firm. And it was a major policy and service issue.  How do you work with people that are sort of dropped into the context of the US with no experience? What do you have to do and how do you have to work with them?  

CRAIN:  Yeah.  

TASHIMA:  HIV became the second thing we did as a major policy impact. Because in 1987/’88, CDC discovered that they didn’t know enough about people at risk for HIV  and were trying to figure out how you do this, so they funded eight cooperative agreements around the country to start looking at this, and all eight projects ran into the same problem.  They could design what they thought were great public campaigns and put stuff out there in their clinics, but people didn’t use them.  And they didn’t know how to make that step out of the clinic. And the method that we had created for this IV drug study in Long Beach came to their vision because this was part of that cooperative agreement, and Kevin O’Reilly, the chief of the section saw this and said, “This could work.”  So he had us come and train his eight cooperative agreement grantees in this method--

CRAIN:  And that was a cohort of cooperative agreements that was focused on gay men. Largely on gay men at that point.  

TASHIMA:  And as we trained them in this method, it did some fascinating things.  One, it compelled them to use a consistent method and grantees don’t do things consistently.  They  have their own best idea, but CDC said, “Because you’re a cooperative agreement, you will do this.”  And we brought them all together for a four-day training  and said, “Here’s how we’ll do it.”  CDC then funded us to go on site and provide TA but also to provide quality control of the application of method.  So all eight of these sites now spoke the same research language, which was heavily influenced by anthropology and had oversight from the two of us about how they did these, from how you go out and interview somebody to how you bring your data and put together what you do with it.  And we read--

CRAIN:  Hundreds.

TASHIMA:  --hundreds of interviews, because we were giving them constant feedback about how their interviewers were doing in the field.  This is debriefing them.  And then when they start analysis, we would go to each site, work with them for two or three days, looking at their data, and doing analysis on this. So you had a great deal of consistency from one site to another.  

CRAIN:  And then there were, I think, three more cohorts that CDC brought us back and asked us to train and do the same kind of support to, including data analysis and so you had this cadre of organizations then, who were using a standardized method to do their formative research about their populations of concern.  And it really, I don’t know if you know Claire Sterk Elifson?  


CRAIN:  Claire was brought into CDC, after we had started. Niel and I and Claire and Kevin O’Reilly ended up writing the research method up and publishing it, and it’s in the literature--this entire method. CDC then took it and continued to disseminate it through their channels and through their trainings, and their training centers now train on the CID method.


CRAIN:  And STDs picked it up, and STD programs use it as their formative method. It is as Niel said, a heavily-anthropologically informed method which is intended to respectfully reach into communities and ask them to share what’s important about those communities and their risk with researchers.  It really demands that the researchers understand the context in which people live and the assumptions and culture under which they operate.  It was very insidious.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes, there’s always been a problem with ethnographic field methods about the comparability from site to site.  

CRAIN:  Yes.  Yes. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  And so, the important innovation that occurred in the realm of research and practice was some mechanism by which comparable data could be prepared using methods that tended to generate data that weren’t comparable.  

CRAIN:  Yep.  

TASHIMA:  One of the really fun and fascinating things that came out of the first round that we did, we were doing analysis and we had piles of interviews, doing our old-fashioned pile sorts.  At one point, one of us looked at the other and said, “Are you seeing a pattern of how people are related?”

CRAIN:  Oh, this was pre-IRB days and we asked people to give us their first name.  You know, we didn’t ask for their full name, but we wanted to be able to say, “Jane’s interview.”  

TASHIMA:  Street names.  

CRAIN:  Well, and we asked for street names, too.  


CRAIN:  But we wanted to be able to say, “This is in--Jane interview.”  Or “This was Ralph interview.”  Whatever.

TASHIMA:  But part of the protocol was a chronology of what people do--


TASHIMA:  So we’d ask you, “What time did you get up in the morning?”  And work all the way through their day to the time they went to bed. And then, “What did you do three days ago?”  And then, “What did you do last weekend?”  And so you have this interesting slice of life from people.  Now these are all active IV drug users and the PI said, “Drug users won’t remember anything, and there’s no way you’re going to know if this is accurate.”  We said, “Well, trust us.  This’ll work.”  And these--some of these people were shooting a lot of heroin at that point.


TASHIMA:  But we went through this, and one of the things that became remarkable was what they watched on television.  And this was in the LA Basin, and the Olympics were going on.  And people were giving us scores, times of trials, and who was winning and what was going on.  “Oh, I saw this yesterday.”  They were--they were also a lot of them watching PBS, and they would tell us what program was on at that night.  So you had real markers of things--(laughter)--in the real world that you could objectively go back to, you know, playlists or TV Guide and see.  

CRAIN:  One of the things we asked people was, “Who do you trust for information?” And we would get names.  And we would ask them, “Who do you hang out with?”  Again, we didn’t want last names.  We wanted to know who they hung out with, because this was triangulating networks and trust and how information moved through networks, and we would debrief with our field researchers and we would take their interviews, and we would--we would run analysis on them.  And as Niel was saying, one day we were crawling around on the floor in these piles of information, and we both began seeing patterns of people crossing over. Street names are generally pretty particular. So, you know, Stinky Feet and saw Ralph the Mooch every third day.  And they would cross-reference one another.  And we began doing this giant network analysis and what we discovered was that there were clear paths for information transfer among trusted resources. And we also found that the people being sent to be interviewed, or the people who we were interviewing, were being referenced across networks, and it created this--this enormous network, and one of our reportings to the project and to CDC was that you have nodes or trusted people into whom you can put good information and that information will go out through the network, and it will be trusted information.  And using this is going to speed your plow a great deal.  

TASHIMA:  Yes, and the information will maintain its integrity as it’s spread.

CRAIN:  Yep.  Yep.  

TASHIMA: We hoped.  (laughter) 

CRAIN:  So that was the project, and then we did, I guess four cohorts for CDC of training,  support, and analysis, and CDC adopted our method which really carried us into the HIV/AIDS realm. We did some research beyond that.  We did site visiting beyond that for CDC.  We did tuberculosis research, behavioral research for CDC. We did hepatitis research for the CDC.  We did a lot of work for the CDC.  This really launched us into federal work in healthcare. Since that time, we’ve worked with Health Resources and Services Administration looking at--

TASHIMA:  All kinds of stuff.   

CRAIN:  (laughs) All kinds of stuff.  Geriatric program services.  We’ve looked at homeless issues.  We’ve worked on food security, we’ve worked on rural health issues.  We’ve worked on HIV/AIDS in HRSA.  Uh, we worked on genetics education.  The list is pretty extensive.

VAN WILLIGEN:  All in the context of the firm.  

CRAIN:  Yes.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And one thing I’ve never been totally clear on, and that’s how the firm was- what kind of an organization it was legally, it could be a corporation; it could be a--

CRAIN:  We incorporated in 1984. We were a partnership for two years, and then we incorporated in the state of California where we’re a closely held corporation--

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.   

CRAIN:  And we are to this day a closely held corporation. Niel and I are majority shareholders. Closely held simply means that there are only a  few shareholders.

VAN WILLIGEN:  And then the title that I’ve seen, the “managing partner” relates to the legal status of--

CRAIN:  No, we made that up.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh, okay.  (laughs) 

CRAIN:  No, we were trying to figure out what would convey information about what we do. And we’re partners, first and foremost.  And so, being called “the partners” seemed a little pretentious, and “partner and partner” seemed strange.  But then we also managed the company.  And so it just sort of evolved into “managing partners”and fairly early on, as I remember.  

TASHIMA:  You sort of make things up and it sounds real.  You print a lot of business cards, and then it is real.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  (laughs) Yep, that’s right.  

CRAIN:  But it works, because people now understand that we are the partners, but we’re the managing partners. And I suppose that allows for the opportunity that there could be other partners someday.  

TASHIMA:  Yeah, they could give us money to become partners.  (laughter) One of the interesting things, and this is a question you asked a while back about business and how we structured this. Somewhere in the early ’90s, as we were getting into federal contracting,  we figured out that if you became an 8(a) small business. You got preferential contracting opportunities with the federal government. And so the 8(a) program a set-aside program for minority-owned businesses. But you had to structure yourself in a certain way.  And so we set about doing this and it focused us on the business side of this enterprise. Right, if you didn’t think about this [inaudible], you get money and you write checks and you sort of just keep this all moving.  In becoming an 8(a) firm, you go through a certification process, and your business practices are part of what they review and so we had to sharpen the business side of what we did.  And we had to do projections--cash flow projections.  We had to have the necessary resources skill sets around us in order to run a business. So we had to go find attorneys.  We had to find bankers.  We had to find CPAs. You know, all of these people--these high-power, legitimate degrees that we knew nothing about.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes.  (laughter)

TASHIMA:  In working with Small Business Administration, they really helped us understand this.  They did a really nice job, we worked with the Fresno office those folks were great.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  You said it’s an 8(a) .  

CRAIN:  It’s part of the Small Business Administration.

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh, that must be a section of a law.  

CRAIN:  It’s a section of a law, the small business act, and 8(a)s are this class of minority-owned firms, and there is a waiver of some of the competitive requirements because the belief is and it’s an entirely legitimate belief that small businesses and particularly minority-owned small businesses run at a disadvantage to large, majority-owned businesses  in competition for federal contracts.  And so it gave us a preferential, competitive place.  And we were certified in 1991as an 8(a) firm.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Right.   

CRAIN:  And I know this because there’s--(laughter)--there is a time limit on how long you can be an 8(a), and we graduated from the program in 2000.  And we competed for and won two very large international contracts as we were graduating from the program.  And anything you have before you leave the program, you take with you.  So we graduated with some and one of the challenges is to continue out into the competitive arena; it’s very difficult, and a lot of small firms fail. I don’t know about your anthropology program, but ours didn’t teach much about business or business competition.  All of those things.  

TASHIMA:  The general sense within the business community is that a small business or a startup firm--if it makes it past its fifth year, it has a good chance. But something like sixty or seventy percent fail before they’re five years old.  

CRAIN:  Yeah.  


TASHIMA:  And so there’s that hurdle.  And the SBA world of 8(a) programs, you could set out doing anything, but the idea was that sooner or later, you would become a telecommunications company. And this was the goal everybody was supposed to have and like, “Oh no,” and this the 8(a)--the SBA people we worked with--it took them three or four years to understand what in the world we actually did.  (laughter) It wasn’t that they understood that it was, “Okay, you’re not going to become a telecommunications firm.  You’re going to continue to do what you’re doing.”  And so they kept talking with us about how this would be a viable business plan or, “I don’t know,” you know.  You do these projections, and you hope for the best.  But it meant that we had to project three to five years out--income, expenses, all kinds of stuff.  And show them why these were sort of realistic guesses. And one thing I walked away from all this was that budgets are estimates.  

[Pause in recording]

VAN WILLIGEN:  It’s now on.  

TASHIMA:  And we learned a great deal from SBA, and this is not stuff I wanted to know.  I still don’t want to know this, but in order to be effective with them, we needed to learn their language and the culture of being a businessperson.  And so we set about doing this.  And over the years--we’ve gotten pretty good at doing all the things a business is supposed to do, but I think the important lesson was trust your advisors, so your accountants or people that say, “Don’t do that.  Don’t spend your money that way.  Put it over here, because you’ve got to do this for that.”  And you’ve got to listen to them.  Our attorneys advise us on all kinds of stuff, and we don’t need them nearly--we don’t use them nearly as much now as we used to when we were getting going, but at the beginning, we were in regular communication with three different sets of attorneys with different things. And you have to pay them for their time.  (laughs) 

CRAIN:  Yes.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  It’s pretty expensive, too.

CRAIN:  It’s very expensive.  But as Niel said, one of the things we are really clear about is that if we’re going to run a business, it’s going to be a good business and we are going to be able to sleep at night without worrying and we’re going to be able to leave for weeks at a time when we travel internationally without worrying that a system is going to implode.  


CRAIN:  So we’ve really invested in our management systems; we’ve invested in having human resources for our company, having a top-notch accounting and invoicing system . You know, it was an investment, but it has made it so much simpler for us to be anthropologists at the end of the day.  Rather than rushing around trying to figure out what was going to fall apart next, which I think is too often the result of a casual approach to business.  And it’s something that we’ve grown into.  In 1983, if you’d talked to us about this, we would have sounded quite different.  But we’re twenty-nine years old as of two months ago.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.  That’s quite impressive.  

CRAIN:  We are twenty-nine years old.

VAN WILLIGEN:  And what did you say?  Six years?  Or--

TASHIMA:  Yeah.  Five years--

VAN WILLIGEN:  Five years.  

TASHIMA:  --and sixty, seventy percent go belly up. And over the years, we’ve watched colleagues and competitors--not anthropologically based firms, but other firms do that. They start with a great idea and they pull in a major contract or several good-sized contracts, and that next jump is really hard.  


TASHIMA:  You get comfortable.  You don’t think about, “Oh, okay, I’ve got to be developing something new, or somebody has to be paying attention to that.”  Or at the end of these contracts, you’re--there’s nothing coming in again.  And nobody’s going to help you do that.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes. So it’s the same thing, the cash flow, I guess. 

CRAIN:  Yes.

TASHIMA:  Yeah, having that next contract, and it’s one of the real challenges of this and one of the real drawbacks of this is you’re always trying to figure out what’s next. How do we keep this infrastructure going because somebody’s got to pay the bills, somebody has to pay everybody and that means somebody’s got to be looking two-to-five years ahead of us. And guesstimating where the federal government’s going to go, where the foundations are going--

CRAIN:  Yes.  Yes.  

TASHIMA:  --what social issues are going to move to the front of the line, how we use anthropology to address those kinds of things--

CRAIN:  And it’s interesting, because we’re working on this praxis reflection for tomorrow.   And it’s really been an interesting reflection, I think, for me.  We’ve been generalists.  We site ourselves in health and human services, but we’ve been willing to go where there have been opportunities to make change.  One of the challenges is that systems become set and when they are, it’s much more difficult to find a point of leverage and they’re much less interested in innovation.  


CRAIN:  And one of the brilliant things that happened with at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was that; and this was reflective of what had gone on in the refugee services world, was that because this was an emergency, systems were open to innovation, and it was a brilliant moment to be able to bring the goodness of anthropology--and it wasn’t just us, I mean, there were--as I say--there were other anthropologists who were busily at this.  Merrill Singer has been around for years doing HIV/AIDS work, Kevin O’Reilly, who’s now with the World Health Organization.  Claire Sterk Elifson. There were others who were there at that moment when there was an opportunity to help systems to be creative and accessible, and innovate, and then they slowly settle. We’ve been at that point for a number of issues, and it’s not entrepreneurial what we do so much as it’s trying to see where we can have a point of leverage to use our skills in a way that’s going to have meaning, and so talking about being generalists is kind of a misnomer. We go where we see potential, and sometimes that’s serendipity and sometimes it’s the result of good planning.  (laughs) There’s probably equal parts.Over the years we’ve gotten people to know us, and so we get people coming to find us, which is really wonderful.  


CRAIN:  We also continue to have to market what we do to people who have no idea what an anthropologist is.  We talk about ourselves on our website as an anthropologically based consulting firm.  It narrows the people who are going to respond, “Oh yes, I know what that means,”  affirmatively. But it is our definition of ourselves.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes.  I noticed that when I reviewed the website.  And it led me to the conclusion that it wasn’t just another consulting firm and had a special orientation and I was wondering if you could comment on the way I expressed it in my notes, it was something about the ideology of the firm  and I mean there would be different ways of saying that, but there was a certain viewpoint, a certain kind of mission statement. You might want to comment on the important themes in the firm’s view.  

TASHIMA:  One of the fun things we do as an orientation for new staff when they join us and we used to do the, you know, sort of the corporate song and dance about here’s our mission; and it struck me at some point that really what we’re about is changing systems, changing the world.  Using anthropology to figure out how to make things better because everybody says in human services, that they want things to be better--  


TASHIMA:  --and they have a definition of how that should happen. Well, most of the time, they say you need to work in partnership with community, but that’s as far as that statement goes, and so trying to figure out how do you bring community into this conversation becomes important to them.  And anthropology creates that kind of bridge. So by saying we’re an anthropology-based consulting firm up front, one of the things I hope it does is it says to people--if they understand anthropology--“Cool.  These people make that bridge for us.”  And if they don’t, it gives them to opportunity to say, “What do you mean by this?”


TASHIMA:  And so it fulfills two purposes for me.  One, it gets them engaged with us talking about who we are.  But two, it gives us an opportunity to educate people about anthropology in general. And we have a chaotic approach to life--(laughter)--where we’re trying to help the world understand why anthropology’s important to them. And in little ways with different people, we start broaching these conversations, and so the director of a human services agency for a county asks, “Well, why is anthropology important?”  And we give them this whole song and dance.  And all of a sudden, we’ve drawn them into a conversation about anthropology they don’t have anybody else to ask about.  And we’re relatively trusted, and we don’t bite, and we’re not rabid about why they should bring anthropology in, but when it starts to answer their questions federal agency people, people who run major organizations in the federal government, ask the same kind of questions of us, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to educate generally about anthropology.  


CRAIN:  Niel kind of kicked this off by talking about when we train our staff the vast majority of our social scientists are anthropologists which, you know, it’s like having a really good-sized department and it’s just as interesting and just as challenging, I think.  One of the things we talk about with our staff, and we don’t say this on the website, and we generally don’t say it to our clients, but we’re learner-servants.  We learn in service of helping communities to be able to live better.  And part of that learner-servant is the belief that communities and people have the right of self-determination.


CRAIN:  They have the right to have their cultures respected and understood by those who would serve them.  And we believe that all systems are in service whether that’s part of their perspective or not.  If they put themselves out there to provide a service, then they are in service to the people for whom they are to provide services. And the best way of providing those services is to engage with the people who are consuming their services. It is the way in which services are going to be most effective, most humane, most appropriate. And so that’s a core piece of our philosophy, those who are served should be those at the center.  We’ve been involved in a movement called Decent Care over the last five years.

TASHIMA:  Going on six now.  

CRAIN:  Going on six, yeah.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  This is referred to in the website, I think.  

CRAIN:  Yes.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Because I remember--it’s familiar to me--

CRAIN:  Right. It stimulated by the World Health Organization.  We’ve done a lot of work internationally we’ve worked in fifty countries.  A lot of that was for USAID doing evaluation and evaluation has been a good vehicle for our anthropology.  That’s an entire different conversation about vehicles for anthropology.  But we’ve also done a lot of work with the World Health Organization. And the someone we knew there was looking at the National Labor Organization’s decent work--


CRAIN:  --and said, “If decent work exists, why shouldn’t there be decent care?  Decent healthcare?”  And we were engaged very early on.  One of the things we do which is referred to on our website but isn’t kind of a marquee thing that we do, is we create convenings.  We create gatherings  that are particularly good at bringing people together, but then creating outcomes that people can live with.  That’s meant, we don’t do logistics.  We don’t put the mint on the pillow.  We don’t put a pencil on your chair if you’re coming to a meeting.  But what we will do is to--

TASHIMA:  Probably did that.   

CRAIN:  --we--(laughter)--we have done for a very few clients.  But we will create the method by which discussions will happen and we will do rapporteur work, and we will do analysis and reporting work, and what this allows us to do is put an anthropological vision into how you talk through an issue or conversation.  Our WHO person asked us if we would create the method of convening for a gathering of philosophers, social scientists advocates--

TASHIMA:  HIV advocates.  Yep.  

CRAIN:  policy makers, to talk about the concept of decent care, which didn’t exist.  So we created the convening method, but then we also worked in HIV/AIDS and this really was a bounce off of HIV/AIDS.  We worked in AIDS for years.  So we had a very particular vision of how things needed to happen to make care decent.  And so we wrote one of the white papers, which created one of the pillars of what became decent care. So we not only were within a small group of others created this convening method. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  Wait a second.  It’s called the convening method?  

CRAIN:  Well, it doesn’t have a name; it’s just what we did. And we’ve used it again and again. Decent care was defined at that first convening through the use of this method and then one of the white papers that we wrote the value that we defined became one of the pillars of decent care. 


CRAIN:  And so we both were part of the doing of it, but also part of the eventual conversation.  

TASHIMA:  That whole convening business comes--I was trying to figure out how--how to frame this.  It comes out of an ability to talk with diverse people from their own worlds.


TASHIMA:  And WHO asked us--told us that number one, nobody could commit to something that they couldn’t commit to.  That people should not come away from this convening uncomfortable and rather than wanting consensus, they wanted conversations.  But they didn’t know what any of that meant?  And so, I think the way this works is having respectful and engaged conversation. We broke these into small groups, and the group I was leading had one of the two Coptic bishops of Africa, the past president of the Unitarian church of the US, and an HIV/AIDS activist from Nepal. There was an Irish-Catholic priest. There were ten people in the room.  I don’t know who--and there was the first--or the president of the Islamic Medical Association of Uganda.    

CRAIN:  And don’t forget, Swami.  

TASHIMA:  Oh yes.  

CRAIN:  All of these groups were this diverse. And so it can the form and functioning of the convening had to bring them along together as we helped them to have a conversation about defining what decent care could be.  What it would look like.  It was fascinating.  It was absolutely fascinating.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  I imagine.   

TASHIMA:  But we’ve done this several times now with the concept of decent care in international groups.  And it’s fascinating watching people come into a room, expecting to not find commonality because they’re used to being in these international meetings where you have a  position because you’re PRC of the ministry of health, or you’re the Lebanese government’s ministry of health person.  Or you’re a faith leader.  Pick a faith from the world. And systems don’t talk to each other. And we sit them down and say, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.  Talk to us about how these values feel in your world.”  And there’s six values that form the core of decent care. And all of a sudden instead of talking about why the ministry of health isn’t funding me to do X, it’s, “Well, in my world, agency for a person is like this.”  But it involves these other people.  And you find other people by opening my world, “Those people aren’t involved; these people are involved.”  And you find Americans saying, “Well, in my world, none of those people are involved.  It’s me.  I’m the only important person.”  And you get a--some real cultural elements, and then people start saying, “Well, why is it so different where you are and where I am, and how do we find commonality in all that?”  


TASHIMA:  It’s just amazing to watch these people go through this and you think, ‘Man, the world should be like this more often.’  But they walk away saying, “I can agree with my colleague X about the importance of interdependence.  I can agree with my colleague Y about how things need to be sustainable.”  “And as a government representative, I have to do this for them for that to happen.  As an international donor, I have to do this.”  And they all take away what applies to them instead of being the one that has the answer for everything.  And it’s just fascinating watching this go on; and it’s good, respectful engagement but it’s good field work.     You think about being an anthropologist, you think about community; you think about talking to people. And you understand.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  And this is an important thing right now.

CRAIN:  Yes.  

TASHIMA:  But it also goes back to work we’ve done over the years.  We created a facilitation process for the Pacific Basin Health Summit and this was in ’95?    

TASHIMA:  And it brought together--

CRAIN:  Ninety-eight?  Sometime back there.  

TASHIMA:  --something like that.  It brought together representatives of the trust territories and freely associated states, ministries of health.  


TASHIMA:  Six federal agencies.  And the concept was that from this four-day summit, they would create a new way forward for healthcare in the Pacific.  

CRAIN:  So it was a new planning process and we had to help them to bridge communication and trust and history and all kinds of things. 

VAN WILLIGEN:  And so your primary function was the design of the event to produce the goals that the sponsor was interested in achieving. 

CRAIN:  Yes.  

TASHIMA:  And to facilitate the group.  

CRAIN:  Niel and I facilitated the entire summit.  (laughs) Like it was four days. I’ve never had such sore feet in my life.   

VAN WILLIGEN:  I bet you were really tired and miserable. 

CRAIN:  We were exhausted.  

TASHIMA:  Well, and they started out--the planning committee--from HRSA.  It started with--they’re ran by twenty people.  “Oh yeah, we can--two of us can do twenty people.  That’s easy.”  By the time we got done, there were eighty people coming to this.  We said, “Wait, this is never going to work.”  

CRAIN:  It worked fine.  It was just an incredible amount of work, and--(laughter)--it--it was quite successful.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s really impressive.  So that are--what are some of your favorite projects?  

TASHIMA:  Oh, you’ve been hearing about them all.  (laughs)

VAN WILLIGEN:  I see.  That’s what I thought.  

CRAIN:  Oh yeah.  Decent Care.  Decent Care is the one that’s closest to my heart and we’re doing some evaluations of decent care demonstrations--


CRAIN:  --uh, we’re looking at how to, you know, get more information out about decent care, um, it’s--it’s, you know, if we could get decent care embraced  by health systems and communities we could retire as happy people.  It is the soft revolution  we’ve always hoped for.  

TASHIMA:  We came back from the first convening in whatever it was.  2005--

CRAIN:  In Vevey, Switzerland , yeah.  

TASHIMA:  --and we were briefing our staff on it.  And Carter Roeber.  

CRAIN:  Yes.  

TASHIMA:  Carter said, “This is the--this is a social movement.  It’s not services related.”  He was really puzzled by this outcome of a WHO meeting--(laughter)--and most of our staff in one way or another had been engaged with us, and Carter’s been part of this. And he went like, “This is kind of cool stuff,” you know.  “We’re going to change the world.” 

VAN WILLIGEN:  Don’t tell anybody.  

CRAIN:  Yeah.  (laughter) 

TASHIMA; One of the fun projects that we did that we thought really would go someplace instead of petered out, that would be like, ’92?  ’93?  Congress was whacking at the space station and they’d gone from this expansive design to a tuna can.  (laughter) 

CRAIN:  On--on metal.  (laughter)

TASHIMA:  On nothing but metal rods. And we like science fiction; we’re sort of following this.  We got a call; we were at a CDC meeting in Santa Fe--


TASHIMA:  --we got a call from a colleague; she said, “You know, I got this really interesting opportunity and, well, would you guys be interested in working on something on a space station?  (laughter) Well, sure.  Sounds great.  And she said, “Well, what we’re considering is what you do when you put an international crew on a space station.  What kinds of cultural”--

CRAIN:  Issues.  

TASHIMA:  --“personal--you know, people’s issues would there be?”  I said, “Oh, that sounds kind of fun to approach.”  She said, “Good, can you design something within a week and get it back?”  (laughter) “How long have you been cogitating on this?”  She said, “Oh, it’s been a while now.”  

CRAIN:  She is an anthropologist.  

TASHIMA:  And so we put this thing together, and it went from a series of opening questions to a whole series of scaled questions. We were working with a lot of engineers.  So they called themselves scientists, which I thought that was interesting.  And the Japanese Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, NASA--I think they were the partners of this endeavor.  And so we said, “Okay, well, you’ll have to send us to talk to people.”  And she said, “Well, we don’t have the money for that.”  So what, we can call them.  “Well, we don’t really have money for that.”  “What--how are we going to communicate with these people?”  And she: “Questionnaires?”  Where in--“But the questions you asked are all qualitative and--okay, well we’ll do that.”  And so we designed this whole qualitative questionnaire and gave it to them, and they looked at it and said, “These are scientists.  You need to have it all scaled….But those are the questions we want you to ask.”  


TASHIMA:  “Okay, they’re open-ended questions; you want scales.  Let me put scales on everything.  Ah, this is great.”  And it’s--“Okay, so, now we have to translate them.”  “Huh?”  “Japanese obviously don’t speak”--“Oh, yes, everybody speaks English.  We’ve been partners with them for years.”  They said, “Oh, everything’s in English now.”  “But you’re asking about people living together and about, you know”--

CRAIN:  Cultural.  

TASHIMA:  --“coughing behavior and cigarette smoke--all these things.  Don’t you think they’d be more comfortable in their own language?”  “Well, maybe, but we won’t do that.”  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Goodness.  

TASHIMA:  “Oh, well, fine.  Send it off anyways.”  So they sent it off to their Japanese partners, and two days later, they came back and said, “We’ve got a small problem with the Japanese.  They don’t want to do this.”  (laughter) “As they said, it’s too personal.  They can’t talk about that in English.”  “But--ah, well, very good.”  Had it translated, send it off--the Europeans came back and said, in several different languages, “We can’t do this in English.  This is much too complicated.”  And so they translated into a variety of European languages and sent it off, and it all came back.


TASHIMA:  And one of the practical things for us--there are all kinds of interesting things that came out of this--one of them was the consistency with which the Canadians responded. Everybody was within one overall point difference of each other after all these questions going, like, “There’s something wrong here.”  

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh, I see.  

CRAIN:  (laughter) So I picked up the phone and started dialing for my colleagues--


CRAIN:  --in Canada, saying, “Talk to me about this.”  Because I had been out of Canada for twenty years at this point--


CRAIN:  --and I said, “Explain me this.  I don’t get this.  I have no clue why we’re seeing this, and I don’t believe there was collusion in answering it.”  (laughter) And what they explained to me was that Canada had undergone this--this seismic shift culturally and that diversity and gender equity and all of these issues were major social thrusts and that there was a high degree--particularly, you know, among the kind of people that we would have been interviewing--a high degree of congruence.

VAN WILLIGEN:  Oh, that’s really interesting.  

CRAIN:  And we very often talk with young researchers about problems in research, and we thought we had a real problem in our research.  What we had discovered was a cultural norm that we didn’t know about. 

TASHIMA:  And consistent.  

CRAIN:  Just an extraordinary degree of consistency. Yeah, that was a great project.  (laughs) 

TASHIMA:  The other--the other fun--there are two other fun things.  One of the other things, the engineers wanted us to throw in questions about colors, because they said, “Internationally, we have agreed upon conventions for color-coding things like wires and”--


TASHIMA:  --“and lights and things.”  And so, “Okay, fine.”  So there was a series of colors and things they were supposed to describe like red was “stop” and “danger”--


TASHIMA:  --and yellow was--they had technical terms for all these things.  But there were like, eight?  Ten colors? “Are you sure you want to do all these colors?”  “Yeah, this is what we do.”  Their responses were all over the map.  

CRAIN:  Red was the only consistent color.  

TASHIMA:  Red was “stop,” “danger,” “don’t do this.”  

CRAIN:  Right.  

TASHIMA:  But the rest of them were unclear and--

CRAIN:  Congruence went way downhill from there.  (laughs) 

TASHIMA:  And the Americans sat there and looked at this and they were just appalled.  They said, “But we--but we’ve been designing wiring with color codings and lights with color--you mean, nobody’s”--I’m like, “I don’t know, but this is your data.  You asked the question.  You should do something now.”  (laughs) They were like, “Holy cow.”  The other thing  after we finished the project--one part of it was adding a arrow to a toggle switch and saying, “Which one is on and which one is off?”  


TASHIMA:  And then an amplitude knob. Up and down.  Off and on.  And that was pretty consistent for the engineers.  But we were on a United flight going to California--and this was a long time ago. So the pilot was and friendly, and he invited us to come into the cockpit.  


TASHIMA:  And so we went in, and it was--

CRAIN:  We were still on the ground.  

TASHIMA:  There was the copilot and then a Northwest pilot was deadheading.  And you know, they’ve got all these switches and lights and everything.  One of us had said, “Which way’s on?”  And both the United guys said “Up.”  And the Northwest guy said “Down.”  And they all looked at each other and said, almost simultaneously, “What do you mean?”  Going, “Yeah, that’s a good question.  What do you mean?”  Turns out the manufacturers build things to the airline’s specifications, so at United, everything went up and it was on, and Northwest, everything went down and it was on.  As long as you stay in those systems, you are fine.  


TASHIMA:  Was like, “That doesn’t give me a great deal of confidence.”  (laughter) “Especially since you’ve got a Northwest pilot deadheading with you--he’s sort of batter up if you two guys go down.”  (laughs)

CRAIN:  I think my favorite current project is one that we’re doing that’s focused on clergy health.  We’ve done a lot of faith-based work over the years and we are currently working on the evaluation of a clergy health intervention.  This is the integration of mind, body, and spirit and clergy really, you know, they go twenty-four/seven, they’re first responders. The wear and tear on them is pretty significant. And what it’s giving us an opportunity to do with the external evaluator is to basically understand the clergy and their context.  And their context is family, church, little church , big church, national church and all of these systems and how they affect the health of clergy. And it is absolutely fascinating, and we have a whole team of anthropologists who go to the field to work with the clergy.  Niel and I mostly stay at home on this and you know, that’s part of  the development of the firm is that we get to go out less--


CRAIN:  And we ride desks more.  

TASHIMA:  Our administrative folks would prefer it if we never went anywhere.  (laughs) 

CRAIN:  Right.  But that’s okay.  But this is just a fascinating project, and everyone who’s working on it is an anthropologist.  And it is a huge ethnography and having direct effects on the shape of the intervention as we bring back the voices of the pastors and their worldview, so that others can experience it and shape the intervention so that it works better for the pastors.  And it is just a wonderful project. This is one that every anthropologist should have. 

TASHIMA:  Yeah.  It’s fun learning about North Carolina. I knew nothing about North Carolina before we started this.   (laughter) But the staff we have are three different anthropologists with three different kinds of training, two of them come out of applied programs, one doesn’t.  And find themselves, I think, realizing that what they’re talking about is culture. And as they work through these things, they’re looking at cultural systems, values, language and so learning the language of the church has been interesting for them. And we both grew up in this church, and as we talk with the--what would you call them?  The bishops and the funders, who are all sort of interrelated, what they’ve been telling us is that they’ve been getting back their reality and their language.  They work with their intervention team works with a very large survey research group who does good survey research, but they don’t get the church language back, and they don’t have a way of necessarily tying it directly back to church values.  And through our process, they’re seeing how you build that church knowledge and language, and how you use it as one focal lens for all the analysis that you’re doing. And they’re just fascinated by this.  They’re having a good time.  And they’re learning things about their process and their intervention that they wouldn’t have any other way.  But they’re also learning that people can learn this and not be offended by it, because it’s religion.  It’s just--it’s another culture out there.  And as you start working with this, you go, “Well, this isn’t as exotic as a lot of the other places we’ve worked.”


TASHIMA:  And the food’s pretty good too.  (laughter)   

VAN WILLIGEN:  We talked quite a long time, and I was thinking maybe we’ve covered a lot of the bases in some of the things that I was interested in.  Are there any ending comments that you’d like to make?  

CRAIN:  One of the great joys in what we do, for me is being able to work together.  


CRAIN:  Niel and I have been a team for thirty years, our company is founded on people working collaboratively. Nobody gets to work by themselves. There are no lone wolves, and we think that’s a critical part of doing good work.  It’s also a critical part of being an anthropologist in relationship with others. I think lots of anthropologists--and this is probably an old stereotype, found themselves out by themselves…

VAN WILLIGEN:  Yes. I understand that.  

CRAIN:  And I think it not only improves our work. It certainly for me has improved the experience of being a professional anthropologist, um, to work in relationship not as a lone wolf.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  You’re more of a lone wolf in ethnography.  

TASHIMA:  Well, and you don’t get really good work doing it that way.  

VAN WILLIGEN:  No.  Right. 

TASHIMA:  You get one view, and I think multiple views of the same reality’s important to capture.  And being able to say, “I don’t have to worry about my back when we’re out in the field or what we’re designed there or what they are thinking,” that we will produce the best product we’re capable of.  Not because I know Japanese Americans and we’re working with Japanese Americans that I get the final say; it’s that our method, our process, our analysis has to be the best. So nobody can claim, um, special knowledge about anything.  (laughs) As soon as you do, the question should be, “So why would you know any more about this than anybody else asking the naïve question?”  Because we’re asking naïve questions about how things work, how people exist--


TASHIMA:  --if we want someone to tell us about it, we go to them instead of having one of us be intermediaries for them.  And it comes back to being able to trust your team and your partners. If you can’t do that, then we’re probably not a place you should work.  Um, and I think we really do bring a true sense of collegiality into what we do and it’s hard.

VAN WILLIGEN:  I’ve heard this, by the way.  (laughs) 

TASHIMA:  Oh, that’s good.We ask our staff to challenge each other. This Robert Wood Johnson project we’re working on, we do site visits--


TASHIMA:  People go out in teams, and we debrief as a staff. And it’s fascinating listening to this because the senior leads for each one end up in these what might be considered knockdown, drag-out arguments about what they’ve actually seen.  “How do you know that’s real?  How do you”--pounding on the table.  And new people who joined us who are moving through that part of the office and then it’s over.  We have lunch.  We sit and talk.  We’re having a good time.  And we try to explain to new staff, “This isn’t a facade.  If you can’t challenge each other and believe it’s being done because it’s an honest question or if you can’t defend your ground, there’s something wrong.  You don’t have the data.”  Or you’re not asking the right question.


TASHIMA:  And it’s fascinating watching some of this go on.  Sometimes it works really well; other times, people kind of go off in a huff, and they have to think about it--and at the next meeting, they come back and say, “Well, I don’t know, I just “Really?”  (growls) “Really?”  “Well, no, it doesn’t quite work that way.”  And you get people fessing up.  But it’s a really good process, because we’ve watched this work over the last twenty, twenty-five years now.  And as people get used to this, they get to take advantage of it, and--particularly for the young folks, it’s great watching them sort of sit there and watch these sort of storms go on, and try to figure out, “Do I have to pick a side?  Or do I just remain neutral?”  And then one of the things I will turn to them and say--(laughter)--“Well, what do you think?”  (laughter) “Well, I don’t know anything!”

CRAIN:  “I don’t think anything!” (laughter)

TASHIMA:  Now, I love--see, that’s why--“you’ve got a really good brain; you’ve demonstrated that you know how to do this analysis.  So what do you think?”  And they sit there and they look at you and they go, “Well,” and you get this sort of tentative statement.  “No, come on.  What do you think?  Let’s do this right.”  And it pushes them.  And sometimes they haven’t thought about this, and that’s fine, but if they have an opinion--and you can usually tell by watching them if they have an opinion--you want them to speak it up.  

CRAIN:  And Niel and I modeled this.  I mean, we don’t--we’re professional colleagues.  And we will differ when we differ.  And it’s never done disrespectfully.  Solidity is a very important value for us, but we will be as adamant as we feel is appropriate and, you know, again, when young staff come in, they’re sort of, “Huh, they’re fighting.”  And because they know we’re married.  (laughter) But, you know, “No.  They’re fighting.”  (laughter) “No, we’re not fighting.  We’re disagreeing.  It’s okay.  It’s cool.”  (laughs) “We do this.  You know.”

TASHIMA:  What really gets people is when we switch sides.  (laughter) Halfway through, like, “Oh, yeah, actually, okay, fine”-- 

CRAIN:  Okay, flip that argument.  

TASHIMA:  --“that solution works this way--what do you mean you’re not agreeing with me?”  (laughter) “I just”--and it--it models something different.  

CRAIN:  Yes.   

TASHIMA:  I think one of the things it models is that you need to be thoughtful about what you’re doing.  

CRAIN:  Yes.   

TASHIMA:  You can’t just sort of pop off with a comment, um, but it also means that people have to be able to argue their point well, cogently. And if you don’t have that argument, either you need to figure it out or reexamine why you had that position to begin with, and it makes our projects better and ultimately it makes whatever we’re doing serve communities that we’re working with the best. And, you know, we welcome that from the outside.  We welcome that from our clients. And sometimes our clients have a hard time hearing that message, because we’re the pros.  Like, we’re supposed to know.  


TASHIMA:  We say, “We don’t know your community.  We’re learning that.  So you need to help us understand this.”  

VAN WILLIGEN:  That’s that sounds like a good place to end our, um--(laughter)--conversation.  It was really, um, helpful, and I learned a lot, and I learned a lot from your website.

TASHIMA:  Thank you. 

Further Reading

There are three chapters in Profiles of Anthropological Practice: An International Casebook, that are based on the work of Tashima and Crain. The book consists of cases based on exemplary anthropological practice as determined by the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists. The firm’s work served as the basis of chapters entitled “Pastors at Risk: Toward and Improved Culture of Health for United Methodist Clergy in North Carolina” (Coauthored by Crain, Tashima and Terry M. Redding), “A Video Ethnographic Study: Raising Healthy Children in Poverty and Examples of Excellence in Addressing Childhood Wellness” (Coauthored by Crain, Tashima, Reiko Ishihara-Brito and Erick Lee Cummings), and “Decent Care: Shifting the Health Care Paradigm” (Coauthored by Crain and Tashima). The book is edited by Terry M. Redding and Charles C. Cheney and includes a foreword by Shirley J. Fiske and Robert M Wulff and an afterword by Riall W. Nolan. The book will be published in May of 2022.

Engaging the Unknown, Outlining the Future: An Anthropologically-Based Consulting Firm IN:  A Handbook of Practicing Anthropology Riall Nolan (Editor), Cathleen Crain and Nathaniel Tashima. April 2013, Wiley-Blackwell.

SfAA Oral History Project

The audio record and transcript of this interview are archived in the SfAA Oral History Collection at the Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. Suggestions for anthropologists to be interviewed are welcome. Contact


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