Organizations – public and private – go through different stages of development. During this life cycle, it is not uncommon for an organization to update or modify their programs and services. At the same time, however, some organizations can be stagnant and need to update their programs. How do you know when it is time for your organization to refresh your program?
Below are three questions you should ask yourself to determine if it is time to update your program.
- Are we making the impact that we hoped to make?
- Is our program aligned with the latest research?
- Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?
If you answer no to any of these questions, then it might be time to seriously review your program. You may not need a complete redesign of your program, but it’s time to reevaluate.
When we have worked with other organizations to help them improve their impact by updating their program model, there have been a range of changes that we proposed implementing to achieve their results.
In one case, we worked with a large volunteer literacy tutoring program who was not making the impact they had hoped to make. Through our assessment, we proposed the following changes that were then implemented:
- Clarify the target population – We learned that the target population to enroll in and receive this literacy tutoring program needed to be more focused. Students who were reading just below grade level benefited the most from this program. Students who were more than one grade level behind were not a good fit for this type of tutoring program.
- Strengthen the curriculum and training – Since this program relies on volunteers – non-professional educators – to deliver the tutoring, the curriculum is critical. After researching other effective literacy tutoring programs delivering the impact we had hoped, we saw a theme in the curriculum and instructional practices that they were implementing. We adopted a specific model of instruction and updated the training for volunteers.
- Expand the capacity – The need for this organization’s work was high in the community, but their ability to meet the need was limited to the available volunteers. They were interested in expanding their capacity through AmeriCorps members who would be able to significantly expand the number of students enrolled in and benefiting from the program. We helped them determine how AmeriCorps members could enhance the staff capacity of their program and restructure the program model.
With another client who is working to help get first generation college graduate students, they were struggling to deliver the outcomes to their funders. As we started helping them pull their program data together, the results were not what they had hoped. After reviewing the data and the program activities, it did not take long to identify some gaps and opportunities in the program. From our work, we proposed and helped them implement the following changes:
- Develop new curriculum – Over the years as new staff have worked on the program, the curriculum had “evolved” into a hodge podge of worksheets and lesson plans that were slightly modified each year. There was not a clear alignment of the curriculum with the identified outcomes. Rather than modifying what they had in place, we decided to start over in developing a new curriculum that clearly aligned to the outcomes and would be “turn key” for staff to implement.
- Align multiple programs – This organization operated a school-year program as well as a summer program. Both programs shared similar objectives of helping get more first generation college graduates. However, they operated as two separate programs. We initially started to focus on the school-year program but quickly realized that the “dosage” or impact potential with the summer program was much more focused (40 hours x 6 weeks = 240 hours of “intervention” versus 1.5 hours x 32 weeks = 48 hours of “intervention”). When we combined the two programs as one overall program, we expanded the “dosage” exposure as well as the possibilities of impact.
- Focus the target population – The organization was working with multiple schools across a city. In some cases, it was a middle school in one district and a high school in another district. Instead, we targeted 2 districts and ensured that we had the middle schools that fed into the high schools for continuity purposes since this program enrolled 7th – 12th grade students with the goal of students enrolling each year. This change provided efficiencies for the staff and also helped ensure that the students targeted for the program would receive the greatest exposure of enrolling multiple years.
In today’s information era, there is more research that is available to inform our work and ensure that we are implementing best practice strategies to affect change. In addition, the populations and communities that organizations are serving are changing, and need to evolve with them. Lastly, local, state and federal policies and priorities are shifting. Organizations that can adapt to this changing environment can grow and potentially expand their impact.
If you want help assessing the shifting landscape in your community or industry, or you answered ‘no’ to one of the three questions above, then contact us. We would love to learn more about your program and goals to see how we could support you.