How System Leaders in Atlanta Use Results Count Skills and Tools

Posted September 16, 2020
Leaders in Atlanta review the Results Count's Accountability Pathway framework

Atlanta is a city where the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has long­stand­ing ties and a long-term com­mit­ment to the well-being of chil­dren and fam­i­lies. In addi­tion to sup­port­ing neigh­bor­hood revi­tal­iza­tion and oth­er efforts to increase oppor­tu­ni­ties for low-income fam­i­lies, the work of the Atlanta Civic Site has includ­ed efforts to sup­port lead­ers there to use and apply Results Count®, the Foundation’s unique approach to lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, to their work.

Lamar W. Smith, direc­tor of the DeKalb Coun­ty Divi­sion of Fam­i­ly & Chil­dren Ser­vices (DFCS), par­tic­i­pat­ed in two Results Count pro­grams span­ning 20172018: one held in Atlanta and anoth­er for sites from the Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive®. Smith has found that the five core com­pe­ten­cies and two foun­da­tion­al frame­works he learned are real­ly effec­tive” for man­ag­ing his agency. As the most recent recip­i­ent of the Lead­er­ship Award pre­sent­ed by the Geor­gia Con­fer­ence on Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies, Smith says: Results Count has played a major part in the leader I am today.”

Above the desk in Smith’s office, there is a large Account­abil­i­ty Path­way poster, which illus­trates a Results Count tool for keep­ing lead­ers, staff and part­ners account­able for their com­mit­ments. Encour­ag­ing hon­est con­ver­sa­tions about the progress of plans, this tool helps lead­ers explore why a par­tic­u­lar com­mit­ment has or has not been met and make adjust­ments that gen­er­ate momen­tum toward an iden­ti­fied result. I ref­er­ence the poster dai­ly,” says Smith, to coach, guide and under­gird deci­sion mak­ing with staff at all levels.”

The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) method of improv­ing a process or out­come is anoth­er Results Count method Smith reg­u­lar­ly employs in his work. PDSA is a cycli­cal approach — devel­op­ing a small test of change,” imple­ment­ing it, observ­ing the results and mak­ing adjust­ments for the next iter­a­tion and ulti­mate expan­sion of the work. When a child wel­fare pro­gram direc­tor recent­ly told Smith that she want­ed to try a small test of change” with a par­tic­u­lar work process, I rec­og­nized that PDSAs were becom­ing an inter­nal­ized approach to the way we do busi­ness and a strat­e­gy to help improve prac­tice in the coun­ty,” Smith says.

Results Count empha­sizes break­ing down data that mea­sure child and fam­i­ly out­comes by race and oth­er spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics and iden­ti­fies areas where tar­get­ed efforts could improve equi­table out­comes. Accord­ing to Smith, the most recent exam­ple of devel­op­ing tar­get­ed DFCS out­come mea­sures con­cerns the well-being of expec­tant and par­ent­ing young peo­ple who have decid­ed to leave fos­ter care at age 18, rather than 21. Small tests of change,” he says, have cen­tered around the strate­gies we use in our tran­si­tion­al plan­ning for these young par­ents and their chil­dren.” Dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data enabled Smith to iden­ti­fy needs of this spe­cif­ic group of young peo­ple served by DFCS and devel­op strate­gies specif­i­cal­ly for them.

Research for pol­i­cy and practice

Ketisha J. Kin­nebrew, for­mer­ly with the Atlanta Pub­lic Schools and cur­rent­ly assis­tant project direc­tor with Geor­gia Pol­i­cy Labs, also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 20172018 Results Count work. She man­ages the Metro Atlanta Pol­i­cy Lab for Edu­ca­tion (MAPLE), which part­ners with five of the largest school dis­tricts in the Atlanta area to eval­u­ate the effec­tive­ness of edu­ca­tion pro­grams and to pro­vide evi­dence-based options for changes in pol­i­cy and practice.

Kinnebrew’s work with the school dis­tricts and oth­er stake­hold­ers has allowed her to demon­strate the pow­er of Results Count’s aligned con­tri­bu­tions and col­lab­o­ra­tive lead­er­ship frame­works. The aligned con­tri­bu­tions frame­work pro­vides a struc­ture for groups to focus on a shared agen­da, com­mon met­rics and indi­vid­u­als’ spe­cif­ic roles and skills to make a col­lec­tive impact on a result. Her train­ing in Results-Based Facil­i­ta­tion has helped Kin­nebrew refine her skills in lead­ing groups and ensur­ing that meet­ings move toward action and help par­tic­i­pants to be account­able for their commitments.

Before com­mit­ting to a research project — for exam­ple, on chron­ic absen­teeism — Kin­nebrew and research direc­tors from the school dis­tricts deter­mine the avail­abil­i­ty of rel­e­vant, share­able data. After ana­lyz­ing data on chron­ic absen­teeism from four dis­tricts, MAPLE researchers were able to test whether month­ly, per­son­al­ized emails and text mes­sages to par­ents report­ing on their child’s atten­dance would be an effec­tive, low-cost inter­ven­tion. These nudges decreased chron­ic absen­teeism by near­ly 8%.

Many of our school dis­trict part­ners,” says Kin­nebrew, are now able to say, Wow, this is a prac­tice change that can help increase the num­ber of stu­dents who are in class.’”

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