Author Archives: Whitley Wynns

When Is It Time to Change Your Program?

At non-profit organizations, programs are often developed to meet a need in the community and drive positive change. Over time community demographics and culture may change, along with the needs of the clients. Organizations may find themselves in a position where they are not satisfied with their current impact, there is a lack of funding to support the program, or there is new research to inform the structure of the program or other items to consider. Any of these items might be a good indication that it is time to review your program or update it.

Four FactorsIMG_0736 to Consider Updating Your Program

  1. Dissatisfaction with Current Impact

As the needs of clients change, organizations may find that the impact of programs on participants is not as strong as they had hoped. This could be for many reasons. For example, programs’ services may no longer address the needs of the community. Programs may need to be adapted and different outcomes may need to be established in order to see a greater impact on participants. There are many reasons why program impact may tend to weaken. It is important to determine the root cause for low impact on program participants, in order to determine the next steps to move towards program re-development.

  1. Lack of Funding to Support the Program

Organizations strategically use funding that aligns with programs and services. In doing so, some non-profits rely so much on grants that it becomes challenging to sustain a program. Funding for programs is not permanent. Organizations may lose funding for a variety of reasons. The funder may have chosen to focus on a different social issue, funders may be dissatisfied with program outcomes and impact, or the funds just simply run dry. Based on some of the reasons listed, some funders may ask organizations for sustainability plans when submitting an application for funding.

  1. New Research Developments

In today’s information age, research is on-going and growing. As new developments are made in various disciplines, programs need to align to the latest research trends and practices. Funders want to fund data-driven, research-based programs that demonstrate impact. Programs could become outdated if the organization does not remain relevant with federal, state, and local trends.

  1. Changing Demographics

Many of today’s communities and residents seem to be ever changing. Some organizations do a great job of assessing their targeted communities and understanding the changing trends and demographics. It is important to make sure that the programs and services your organization is providing are serving the intended audience. It is possible that you may need to update your programs to better serve the current target population or look at providing your services in a new community if that is a better fit with your mission and goals. See this blog post to help you consider relocating or moving into a new community!

We have helped other organizations in determining that it was time to update their program. In working with United Way of Central Indiana on their ReadUP program, we helped them assess how to expand their reach and capacity by leveraging AmeriCorps volunteers. They wanted to grow their reach based on the need in the community but didn’t know how to make it happen with their current capacity. It also turned into a good opportunity reassess the target population and align with the latest research.

Has your organization’s programs experienced some of the stated challenges? If you believe it is time to change your program, contact us today!

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How to Measure Character and Leadership Development

In many youth development and education programs, improving character and leadership development are common goals. Measuring them can become challenging due to their close relationship and broad understanding. This is why it is important to establish clear definitions of character development and leadership development before completing an evaluation.

We are currently working with a college and career readiness program,  the Center for Leadership Development (CLD), on their internal data collection and evaluation process. Two key principles of CLD are character development and leadership effectiveness. In order to determine the best way to measure these two focus areas, we walked CLD Leadership through a process where the team defined the two key focus areas, assessed their alignment across the 13 different programs and services, developed short-term IMG_0398outcomes that align with the definitions, and mapped their alignment to long-term aspirational outcomes.

1. Establish Clear Definitions

The Center for Leadership Development has a model that utilizes principles like character development and leadership effectiveness to measure the college and/or career readiness of its participants. In order to effectively measure the two principles separately, the team needed to establish clear definitions of character development and leadership effectiveness for the organization. For example, one-character trait of college and career readiness is discipline. One must be disciplined in order to complete assignments on time whether it be in a school or professional setting.

2. Ensure Alignment with Programming

To ensure programs had the proper alignment with the core principles, the CLD leadership team identified programs with strong focuses on character development and leadership effectiveness. We walked the leadership team through each program to ensure the programs focuses aligned with the two principles and their definitions.  This process creates an understanding with the team and makes sure the measures are connected to the curriculum or services.

3. Develop Short-term Outcomes

Once character development and leadership effectiveness were defined, CLD’s leadership team began to brainstorm short-term outcomes for these focus areas. These short-term outcomes were developed based on the established definitions. For example, the CLD leadership team identified self-discipline as part of what defines character development for the organization. If the program has a focus on character development, there should be a short-term outcome that will provide a measure in order to show an increase, decline or no change in the self-discipline of a participant. This will help the staff understand if the curriculum and program is addressing these specific areas and moving closer to accomplishing its goals.

4. Align to Long-term Outcomes

The CLD leadership team also needed to ensure that the principles aligned with the long-term goals of the organization. The team reviewed research and discussed the rationale behind why character and leadership development are critical components to propel students to a college and career path. The goal of ensuring alignment between the principles and long-term goals is to avoid losing sight of the long-term vision and impact, and to make sure everything remains connected.

Many programs that focus on developing strong character and leadership abilities in youth focus on these efforts simultaneously. It can be challenging to measure character traits and leadership traits separately when character development sets the foundation for building strong leadership skills. Although this challenge exists, organizations can overcome this hurdle by first establishing clear, organizational definitions in order to move forward with creating short-term outcomes to measure the impact of a program and the organization as a whole. We at Transform Consulting Group are here to support the data and evaluation needs for your organization. Contact us today!  

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3 Tips to Scale Up Your Social Program

Social programs are often developed to address service-gaps within communities. As the program evolves and retains strong outcomes over time, organizations may look for ways to expand the services.

The Wallace Foundation recently produced a report called Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs. In this report, researchers conducted a study focusing on what it takes to scale up programs and identified three key strategies.

ScalingUpICON20111

Three Strategies to Consider to Scale Up Your Program

1. Organizational Structure:

There are three organizational structures to consider when determining the proper path for scaling up a program.

  • Branching:  If an organization chooses “branching” as a strategy, the program will be offered at multiple sites under the control of the lead organization. Utilizing this strategy may mean slower growth and expansion for the program due to the fact that the lead agency must manage the various sites. The benefit of branching for program expansion is that the lead agency remains in control of the program delivery and model.
  • Affiliate: Organizations utilizing the affiliate path are able to offer and expand their program to other sites. In this option, the partnering organization has basic control over the program like the leading agency would in the branching pathway. Sometimes these independent organizations are under contract with the lead organization who developed the program.
  • Distributing network: This option allows for an organization to develop the content of a program, but leans heavily on its partners to implement the contents of the program as they have been written. These organizations tend to have a national or regional geographic reach.
2. Partnerships:

Scaling up a program involves multiple partnerships.  No lead organization can successfully scale on their own. Successful organizations who participated in the study noted that supporting and implementing partnerships are very important to bring programs to scale. When making the decision on who to partner with, consider the following:

  • Resources – What resource gaps (i.e. funding, implementation, etc.) can the partnering organization support to bring the program to scale?
  • Organizational Structure – Which partnering organization can best assist with the organizational type of bringing the program to scale?
  • Knowledge and Experience – Does this partner have experience and knowledge within this particular field? Who can help guide the process?
3. Program Model:

When bringing programs to scale, the program model was well defined and possibly refined with demonstrated impact prior to scaling. After scaling, it is not uncommon for the program model to be altered due to program adaptation or reinvention. Based on this study in particular, reinventions of programs often occur in order to change the delivery model, target audience, or program’s focus.  To ensure that the program model remains intact as much as possible, lead organizations may provide implementation guidance to those implementing partners. Online resources like toolkits are also a helpful resource for partner organizations to reference. Although this strategy may help in program fidelity, the overall monitoring process for the lead organization to maintain program control varies. Some organizations utilize tools such as Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), dashboards, on-going evaluations, etc.

Client Spotlight

We are working with a college and career readiness client to help them evaluate their impact. One of their goals for completing the evaluation is to make the case for scaling the program to other communities. It has been the discussion for many years at this organization. However, before they could begin the steps identified above, they first need to affirm that they have a well structured program model with demonstrated impact. Then we could take them through the three steps noted to determine if scaling is an option and the appropriate path forward!  

We, here at Transform Consulting Group, are equipped to assist your organization with bringing programs to scale during a time where social needs, communities, and family demographics are forever changing. If you want help with bringing you program to scale or need assistance addressing reinventions and adaptations contact us today!

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