Esther Shin: Bringing Results Thinking to Urban Strategies

Posted June 25, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Urban Strategies worked to improve the well-being of families in Memphis, Tennessee

A recent eval­u­a­tion of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Fel­low­ship® includ­ed case stud­ies of indi­vid­ual Fel­lows who applied the program’s lead­er­ship lessons to trans­form the way orga­ni­za­tions work on behalf of kids, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. The post below is one of a series of three based on those case studies.

Esther Shin, pres­i­dent of Urban Strate­gies, Inc. (USI), was a mem­ber of the 10th class (2016 – 2017) of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Fel­low­ship, an inten­sive lead­er­ship pro­gram for out­stand­ing social sec­tor exec­u­tives. Apply­ing tools and skills from the Foundation’s Results Count® frame­work, Shin worked to get every­one in her orga­ni­za­tion focused on results and data, and on see­ing the child and fam­i­ly in a larg­er con­text,” says Michelle P. Hee­lan, direc­tor of Human Cap­i­tal at ICF, the con­sult­ing firm that recent­ly com­plet­ed an eval­u­a­tion of the Fel­low­ship. I think all of that was very powerful.”

Shin’s major accom­plish­ments, accord­ing to Hee­lan, include help­ing USI and its com­mu­ni­ty part­ners reframe their top-lev­el result, or the North Star, for their work. That meant a focus on well-being: fam­i­lies are not only sta­ble but thriv­ing. To achieve this result, Urban Strate­gies need­ed to hone its eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty, edu­ca­tion and health strategies.

In Mem­phis, for exam­ple, the rate of employ­ment and the lev­el of earned income are sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors that influ­ence whether fam­i­lies are sta­ble and thriv­ing. USI and its com­mu­ni­ty part­ners pro­vid­ed ser­vices that includ­ed help­ing adults secure liv­ing-wage employ­ment by remov­ing bar­ri­ers such as trans­porta­tion and child care and build­ing finan­cial capac­i­ty. Between 2017 and 2019, employ­ment rates and aver­age earned income near­ly dou­bled in the sub­si­dized and mixed-income hous­ing com­mu­ni­ties served by USI.

Apply­ing the Results Count framework

Shin’s employ­ment of three oth­er Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Fel­lows — Dono­van Dun­can (class nine), exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent; Tyron­da Minter (class sev­en), vice pres­i­dent of edu­ca­tion­al ini­tia­tives; and Kristie Stut­ler (class 10), south­ern region­al vice pres­i­dent — accel­er­at­ed the imme­di­ate results USI was able to achieve in Mem­phis and its sites across the coun­try. The four Fel­lows quick­ly brought a sharp focus on pro­duc­ing and respond­ing to real-time data.

Gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion for month­ly reports moved from being a com­pli­ance require­ment to gen­er­at­ing data for data walks” with ser­vice part­ners for con­tin­u­ous improve­ment. Meet­ings evolved from one-way sta­tus updates to apply­ing the Results Count frame­work to cre­ate shared ways of mea­sur­ing progress and to use each partner’s capa­bil­i­ty to the fullest.

Com­mu­ni­ty part­ners also made key con­tri­bu­tions to USI’s work in Mem­phis. Mem­phis HOPE, a col­lab­o­ra­tive enter­prise that USI leads, includes McCor­ma­ck Baron Salazar, a lead­ing afford­able hous­ing devel­op­er; the Mem­phis Hous­ing Author­i­ty, which owns the pub­lic hous­ing prop­er­ty; the Women’s Foun­da­tion for a Greater Mem­phis, which leads fundrais­ing; major employ­ers; res­i­dent lead­ers; the school dis­trict; and local ser­vice providers such as the Rise Foun­da­tion. This col­lab­o­ra­tion has lever­aged over $20 mil­lion for fam­i­lies to thrive with sup­port in areas such as job train­ing, job place­ment, finan­cial empow­er­ment, high-qual­i­ty ear­ly learn­ing and youth development.

Under the Fel­lows’ lead­er­ship, USI recharged its part­ner­ship in Mem­phis by grad­u­al­ly intro­duc­ing Results Count con­cepts in lan­guage acces­si­ble to all. A show, don’t tell” approach to get­ting part­ners to adopt Results Count method­olo­gies by plug­ging them direct­ly into the work took time but was ulti­mate­ly suc­cess­ful. The part­ners, in turn, have respond­ed pos­i­tive­ly to the use of the frame­work, observ­ing that everyone’s plans and actions are bet­ter synchronized.

Focus on equity

Shin and the USI lead­er­ship are work­ing to ensure that all sites ana­lyze the fac­tors that con­tribute to racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties in their com­mu­ni­ties and adjust their pro­gram offer­ings accord­ing­ly. The orga­ni­za­tion has incor­po­rat­ed an equi­ty focus across all of its poli­cies, includ­ing chang­ing the com­po­si­tion of its board to bet­ter reflect the diver­si­ty of the places where USI works and select­ing more ven­dors led by peo­ple of col­or. USI’s staff and lead­er­ship com­po­si­tion reflects the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.

In Jan­u­ary 2019, USI was one of sev­en orga­ni­za­tions select­ed to work with the Casey Foun­da­tion as hubs that will expand the use of Results Count through­out the social sec­tor. The Foun­da­tion chose the hubs for their abil­i­ty to use Results Count with­in their orga­ni­za­tions, as well as to build the capac­i­ty of their part­ners and affil­i­ates to work in a sim­i­lar way. The goal of the hub strat­e­gy is to enlarge the pool of lead­ers who have the skills and tools to accel­er­ate mea­sur­able, equi­table improve­ments in well-being for chil­dren and fam­i­lies across the country.

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