We are designers, facilitators, strategists and community builders


The initiative

The Atlantic Philanthropies launched a six-year initiative in three dozen communities that sought to mobilize and integrate older adults in leading community improvement. They needed to change perceptions, change behaviors, and ultimately change the way older adults participate in and contribute to our communities.

CEP Community Experience Partnership logo

The cohort

Thirty grantees in 36 communities in 18 states over the course of six years funded to engage older adults in diverse community change work. Project focus was broad and interdisciplinary, spanning early childhood education, immigrant community well-being, cross-generational connection, urban food networks, homelessness, health care and sustainable development.

The learning community

The learning group was conceived as a means for individual sites to plan and manage their work, and by the end of the six-year project, it had emerged as the glue that held the entire effort together. Members interacted regularly throughout the year through digital platforms and met in-person two or three times a year at a host site — enabling them to personally witness how one of their peers was engaging older adults.


Though the CEP initiative ended in 2013, the work of CEP participants to engage the skills and talents of older adults to improve their communities is ongoing. The multimillion dollar investment from The Atlantic Philanthropies has been matched two-to-one, and volunteer hours valued in the millions have been (and continue to be) logged. Thousands of older adults are leading efforts in their communities. Dozens of the original learning community members still meet regularly, and two-thirds have established their own local learning groups.

From learning group members

Community Experience Project (CEP)-4

an initiative of The Atlantic Philanthropies

[Presenting our work as the host of a site visit] causes us to take more out of it than we otherwise would. We have to think, ‘What are our lessons learned? And what is this project about?’ We don’t always have this opportunity to figure out the lessons learned.

Community Experience Project (CEP)-2

an initiative of The Atlantic Philanthropies

This completely shaped the way I do all of my work. I’ve learned so much professionally. I learned about the topic that I’m working on, but even beyond that. It’s expanded into my understanding of how to engage communities. It impacted the way I work with my colleagues at work…. It made me the person I am today.

Community Experience Project (CEP)-3

an initiative of The Atlantic Philanthropies

When we went to the site visit in Los Angeles, I thought, ‘Their project has nothing to do with mine. But someone’s paying, I should go, I’ve never been to L.A.’ Then [on the site visit], suddenly, I found myself taking notes, notes, notes. There’s so much that’s translatable to other projects.

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Diana Doyle


Diana leads Socius Group in designing, facilitating and managing collaborative communities and grantmaking programs on behalf of our clients. She is a choreographer of strategy, people and content. She is inspired and driven by the transformation she has seen in the effectiveness of people and organizations when they shift into collaborative modes of learning and working.  

Diana’s experiences as a consultant to funders, a community foundation program officer, and founder and executive director of nonprofit organizations ground her work in the needs of both funders and nonprofit practitioners. She holds a master’s degree in interpersonal and organizational communication from Purdue University and a master of fine arts in dance from Florida State University.

James Gillis

senior consultant

James is an engagement leader, strategist, detail wrangler and coach, helping Socius Group clients maximize their investments and impact by bringing collaborative learning networks to their programming. He is motivated by the power of collaboration and knowledge, and is a passionate advocate and guide for organizations making this profound transition.

James draws on more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit consulting, programming, evaluation and learning for a wide variety of community-based organizations from Boston to San Francisco. He earned a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology (the study of human movement) from San Francisco State University.

Caron Castagnetta

operations manager

Caron is the go-to organizer and logistics whiz, smoothing the way for Socius Group clients and projects. She runs the day-to-day operations of Socius Group and supports project logistics, keeping all the moving parts in working order, on time, and in the right place.

Caron draws on her experiences managing logistics and operations for a number of collaboration-oriented projects and organizations. Her steady hand and organization make the convenings, events, contracting, and management of all those details look easy. Her skill, talent and dedication are fundamental to taking a learning group plan from concept to reality. Caron holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.