How System Leaders in Atlanta Use Results Count Skills and Tools

Posted September 16, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
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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