Meet the speakers

CounterPart Consulting

About CounterPart Consulting  

CounterPart partners with individuals and organizations to catalyze leadership for structural change. Ours is a black and woman owned firm that emerges from a decades-long partnership between us. We center our commitment to justice and change in our work, and draw upon almost 40 years of combined experience in adult learning, human relations, group development, conflict management, leadership and spiritual development. This vast experience equips us with perspective and understanding of the complexity of human behavior and group change processes.  

CounterPart’s work is grounded in the belief that confronting how structural power is operating in all systems is essential to clear analysis and strategic action to create systematic and sustainable change. We use an explicit, yet not exclusive, focus upon race as it is the greatest predictor of disparate community outcomes, whether looking at education, health, wealth, or other important indicators. We believe structural racism is the through line of systemic oppression in our culture, and so any analysis of the potential outcomes of a system must include a thoughtful examination of how race is operating structurally, both internally and externally.  This is not to the exclusion of analysis of how gender, class, ability and more are operating, rather an effort to always include race in the equation.  

We believe that inequity is structural and historic in nature and can be examined, confronted and interrupted given the skill and will of thoughtful individuals and groups. The racial equity framework and language that we use in our work emerges from the work of OpenSource Leadership Strategies and its founder and chief strategist, Gita Gulati-Partee.   OpenSource is a North Carolina-based national consulting practice that amplifies the work of social justice groups as both units and agents of structural change. As Associates of OSLS as well, we share the worldview and tools of the practice, and partner with OSLS on many engagements. We work in partnership on may engagements, and are a team of thought partners for all of our work.  

In terms of how we work and what we bring in terms of skills, we are:  

Co-Creators - ​As partners, with one another and clients, we ​know when to lead and when to get out of the way.​ We understand that ​change happens best when people who hold different and important knowledge work together and engage in, and understand, the long-term and iterative nature of how systems change happens over time. We explicitly and unapologetically center the voices and experiences of people made most marginalized by structural racism and identity of all forms within systems seeking structural change. Their wisdom and ability to innovate must be centered in order for effective change to take root.    

Process builders - ​Inquiry and dialogue are critical components of our work. We know that “how” is sometimes unpredictable, and have high ​tolerance for uncertainty​, knowing that it’s part of the process. We collaborate with our partners to ensure that the path is deliberate and appropriate for the outcomes we seek. We are deliberate that the process building is done in a way that the burden of the work is shared by people of color and white people in the system.  

Transparent and Authentic Partners- ​Compassion and empathy lead our work. We often see ourselves in our partners as we build relationships and trust with one another. The basis of our practice is to create change with people who are willing to see and seek it with us. This calls us to be as transparent about our intentions and decisions as possible, and to be clear about who we are as a team and the worldview that we hold that is at the center of our work.  There is no neutrality in our system in which structural racism and oppression in all forms is ever present. We work with our partners to be transparent and committed to their values for equity and work together to ensure that that value guides all of our work, and the full work of the organization.  

Our Partners  
Our partners are working on many forms of change to build better quality of life for all. We have found ourselves working most in the areas of children and families, including early childhood education, child welfare and K-12 education; philanthropy, including community, family, private and health conversion foundations; economic and policy development advocacy groups; and the environmental movement. We are eager to partner with the committed people who work daily on behalf of the well-being of communities and change for our culture.


KATHLEEN E. CRABBS is a leadership and equity educator and coach, and a partner in organizational and cultural systems change. She collaborates with people and groups to clearly hear themselves and each other, and create strategies to partner and move through the world with clarity of purpose and commitment to justice. She partners with individuals and systems to bring an explicit equity lens to their work, hone communication and leadership skills, develop strategy and implementation plans, confront decision-making and disagreement, and hold themselves accountable to their plans and vision. Kathleen brings her deep listening, discernment and counseling skills to her work with individuals and the systems in which they live and work. She is a skilled partner in determining vision and direction. Kathleen is Co-Founder and Principal of CounterPart Consulting with Sterling E. Freeman and an Associate with OpenSource Leadership Strategies, Inc., both North Carolina-based national consulting practices. Through these entities, she and her colleagues partner with individuals and systems to integrate an explicit racial equity and adaptive change lens to their work and planning.  Kathleen served as Lead Faculty and Coach with the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations for 17 years, where she co-designed and facilitated a two-year cohort leadership program and provided one-on-one coaching to adults on developing leadership that is increasingly authentic, mindful and responsible. Through this work, she has coached over 80 adults, whose diversity spans all lines of identity, discipline and sector, in individual engagements spanning from 3 months to two years. Prior to coming to North Carolina, Kathleen began her career with NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science where she worked for 8 years designing and delivering programs in collaboration with NTL members and staff. Kathleen holds a BA in English from Randolph-Macon College and a MA in English, with a concentration in teaching writing and literature, from George Mason University. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with her partner, Craig, and their children Eliza, Annie and Henry.


STERLING E. FREEMAN is a leadership coach, organizational and cultural change agent, facilitator, counselor and public speaker. All of his work is grounded in an equity lens and motivated by a desire to achieve justice. Sterling’s more than 25 years of experience have equipped him with the knowledge and skills in idea development, project management, personal development and goal clarification, and formal and extemporaneous speaking. Having been in Christian ministry since 1996, Sterling also brings a pastoral orientation to this work, and is inclined toward deep listening, holding empathy and meeting people where they are. Sterling has worked with leaders whose diversity span all lines of identity and across multiple sectors in the non-profit world. Speaking and lecture opportunities take him across the country and abroad. Along with Kathleen Crabbs, Sterling is a Co-Founder and Principal with CounterPart Consulting, LLC and Associate with OpenSource Leadership Strategies. Through both entities, he and his colleagues work with client-partners to help them apply an explicit racial equity lens to their work. He is a consultant with Auburn Seminary (New York, NY) where, among other projects, he collaborates with the Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, AR. Sterling holds a Master of Divinity from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a BA in Economics from Davidson College, certificates in business strategy and economics from the London School of Economics, and the Doctor of Ministry Degree in Global Leadership from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University.  Sterling serves on the board of the African American Heritage House at Chautauqua Institution in New York, the vision of which is to contribute to a more vibrant Chautauqua community and enrich the Chautauqua (CHQ) community through the inclusion of African American history, culture, and the contributions of African Americans intellectuals. He lives in Durham with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter Joia.