Evaluation and Briefs Share Lessons Learned During Family-Centered Community Change Initiative

Posted July 14, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog evaluationandbriefsshare 2021

A new eval­u­a­tion report from the Urban Insti­tute, Devel­op­ing Two-Gen­er­a­tion Approach­es in Com­mu­ni­ties, shares lessons, chal­lenges and reflec­tions on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change® (FCCC) strategy.

Read or down­load the report

The effort, which took place from 2012 to 2019, sup­port­ed part­ner orga­ni­za­tions in three neigh­bor­hoods with high rates of pover­ty as those part­ners imple­ment­ed ser­vices to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly improve the lives of par­ents and their chil­dren — also known as a two-gen­er­a­tion approach.

What did FCCC attempt to accomplish?

FCCC set out to pro­vide data on whether com­mu­ni­ties could improve out­comes for fam­i­lies by pro­vid­ing tar­get­ed ser­vices to chil­dren and the adults in their lives at the same time. The Foun­da­tion iden­ti­fied com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships in Buf­fa­lo, New York; Colum­bus, Ohio; and San Anto­nio, Texas to par­tic­i­pate in the effort, which served near­ly 850 fam­i­lies, most of whom were fam­i­lies of col­or. In addi­tion to pro­vid­ing the com­mu­ni­ty part­ners with grants for devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing two-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies, the Foun­da­tion offered tech­ni­cal assis­tance and train­ing in racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclu­sion to guide their work.

The Foun­da­tion chose part­ner­ships that already had ser­vices in place to assist par­ents and their young chil­dren. Although the ser­vices offered in each com­mu­ni­ty dif­fered, they all focused their two-gen­er­a­tion efforts across two core areas:

  • Adult and fam­i­ly ser­vices. Each com­mu­ni­ty pro­vid­ed fam­i­ly coach­ing to help par­ents set goals for them­selves and their chil­dren. Adult and fam­i­ly ser­vices also includ­ed finan­cial coach­ing, employ­ment ser­vices, hous­ing assis­tance, adult edu­ca­tion and train­ing, dig­i­tal lit­er­a­cy train­ing and fam­i­ly events. 
  • Child ser­vices. Com­mu­ni­ties sought to pro­vide high-qual­i­ty ear­ly child­hood and ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion to fam­i­lies, either direct­ly or by sup­ple­ment­ing exist­ing ser­vices offered through the local school system. 

What did the eval­u­a­tion cov­er, and what lessons emerged?

Because part­ner­ships in each com­mu­ni­ty were struc­tured dif­fer­ent­ly and revised their approach­es over the course of FCCC, the Urban Insti­tute team focused on study­ing how the approach­es were imple­ment­ed and doc­u­ment­ing fac­tors that affect­ed the effort, rather than mea­sur­ing out­comes for fam­i­lies. The eval­u­a­tors based their find­ings on inter­views and focus groups with pro­gram staff, admin­is­tra­tors and par­tic­i­pants; pro­gram data on par­tic­i­pant and fam­i­ly char­ac­ter­is­tics and pro­gram activ­i­ties; and costs of staff time spent on FCCC-relat­ed activities. 

The Urban Insti­tute team iden­ti­fied sev­er­al key lessons: 

  1. Use res­i­dent exper­tise. Fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions can pro­vide crit­i­cal insights to inform two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es so that strate­gies build on their strengths and the strengths of the com­mu­ni­ty itself, and meet fam­i­lies’ needs. 
  2. Iden­ti­fy key con­cepts and goals, includ­ing how to inte­grate ser­vices for par­ents and chil­dren. Defin­ing how ser­vices will be coor­di­nat­ed and aligned could improve fam­i­lies’ experiences.
  3. Empha­size equi­ty and inclu­sion from the start. Under­stand­ing how struc­tur­al racism affects com­mu­ni­ties and learn­ing to dis­rupt those struc­tures is dif­fi­cult work that requires resources, tools and time. 
  4. Engage part­ners across orga­ni­za­tions and sys­tems. The FCCC expe­ri­ence sug­gests that get­ting input on the design of two-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies from con­stituents at var­i­ous lev­els — from pol­i­cy­mak­ers and gov­ern­ment ser­vice providers to indi­vid­ual orga­ni­za­tions and fam­i­lies in plan­ning and design — may allow for new, cre­ative oppor­tu­ni­ties to emerge.”
  5. Doc­u­ment key aspects of part­ner­ships. Spelling out com­po­nents such as the way orga­ni­za­tion­al cul­tures will come togeth­er, how part­ners will com­mu­ni­cate and how fund­ing streams will work increas­es the chance that the part­ner­ships will func­tion smooth­ly for the long term. 

What did an eval­u­a­tion show about Casey’s invest­ment approach? 

A sep­a­rate eval­u­a­tion by TCC Group exam­ined what the Foun­da­tion called its strate­gic co-investor approach to invest­ing in Fam­i­ly-Cen­tered Com­mu­ni­ty Change. This approach was designed to join and strength­en exist­ing com­mu­ni­ty ini­tia­tives with flex­i­ble grant fund­ing; deep­en rela­tion­ships between the com­mu­ni­ties and Casey staff; and estab­lish an issue of focus ― in this case, two-gen­er­a­tion strate­gies ― with­in a broad­er com­mu­ni­ty change effort. 

A two-page info­graph­ic describes this approach, as well as lessons for both com­mu­ni­ties and fun­ders gleaned from TCC’s work. The full report, Inno­vat­ing Place-Based Grant­mak­ing, offers a more detailed pic­ture of how the approach unfolded.

What kind of com­mu­ni­ty change did FCCC achieve?

The Urban Insti­tute eval­u­a­tors found that while con­tex­tu­al fac­tors pre­vent­ed FCCC from achiev­ing large-scale com­mu­ni­ty change, the effort left a lega­cy in all three com­mu­ni­ties by:

  • cre­at­ing or strength­en­ing con­nec­tions with schools and ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion providers;
  • estab­lish­ing a mutu­al com­mit­ment among orga­ni­za­tions to focus on fam­i­lies liv­ing in the communities;
  • chang­ing atti­tudes about fam­i­lies among sys­tems that serve them; and 
  • devel­op­ing new part­ner­ships and new commitments.

How much did FCCC cost?

Despite grow­ing inter­est in two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es, there’s a lack of data about the costs asso­ci­at­ed with them. To fill this gap, researchers from the Urban Insti­tute esti­mat­ed the staff labor costs of coor­di­nat­ing, inte­grat­ing and run­ning two-gen­er­a­tion ser­vices in each FCCC com­mu­ni­ty for a por­tion of the ini­tia­tive, detailed in an accom­pa­ny­ing report, The Costs of Coor­di­nat­ing Two-Gen­er­a­tion Pro­grams. (Although the research team hoped to col­lect a year’s worth of cost data for the report, part­ner orga­ni­za­tions’ avail­abil­i­ty con­strained the data col­lec­tion peri­od to a few months.)

The esti­mat­ed coor­di­na­tion costs for each com­mu­ni­ty were:

  • Buf­fa­lo: $120,600 over three months
  • Colum­bus: $104,200 over three months
  • San Anto­nio: $295,300 over three months

What were the chal­lenges in imple­ment­ing two-gen­er­a­tion approaches?

Researchers note a few sig­nif­i­cant challenges: 

  • Fam­i­lies iden­ti­fied a wide range of goals dur­ing coach­ing ses­sions, which made it dif­fi­cult for com­mu­ni­ty part­ners to pri­or­i­tize and coor­di­nate services. 
  • Fam­i­lies faced struc­tur­al prob­lems like a lack of qual­i­ty jobs, hous­ing and trans­porta­tion that pre­vent­ed them from tak­ing full advan­tage of FCCC activ­i­ties and services. 
  • Part­ner orga­ni­za­tions strug­gled to find men­tal health providers and high-qual­i­ty, afford­able ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion services. 
  • Part­ner orga­ni­za­tions faced staff turnover and insuf­fi­cient fund­ing to sup­ple­ment the Foundation’s FCCC grant. 

Although all com­mu­ni­ties offered job and employ­ment ser­vices, it wasn’t clear at the end of the effort whether the job oppor­tu­ni­ties secured would lead to ful­fill­ing, sta­ble and last­ing careers for the par­tic­i­pants. Researchers not­ed that fur­ther study is need­ed to doc­u­ment out­comes for fam­i­lies involved in two-gen­er­a­tion approaches. 

How did the eval­u­a­tion engage the communities?

In con­cert with the strate­gic co-investor approach, the Urban Insti­tute team also stud­ied how fam­i­lies and mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships shaped FCCC, includ­ing the activ­i­ties used to eval­u­ate it. Despite chal­lenges and lim­i­ta­tions not­ed by par­tic­i­pants in the Urban report, the eval­u­a­tion incor­po­rat­ed com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment — known as com­mu­ni­ty-engaged meth­ods which are seen as key to advanc­ing equi­ty — through events such as data walks to inter­pret ear­ly findings. 

The report, Com­mu­ni­ty-Engaged Approach­es to Eval­u­at­ing a Col­lec­tive Impact Effort, offers rec­om­men­da­tions for future eval­u­a­tions, including:

  • select­ing eval­u­a­tors with the cul­tur­al back­ground and expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary to gain com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers’ trust;
  • mak­ing clear com­mit­ments about how shared deci­sion-mak­ing will work and fol­low­ing through; 
  • build­ing rela­tion­ships before begin­ning eval­u­a­tion tasks; and 
  • set­ting clear goals for com­mu­ni­ty engagement. 

Watch a webi­nar about the FCCC eval­u­a­tion findings

Read five lessons about FCCC partnerships

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