New Paper Examines Role of Centers of Excellence in Promoting Systems Reform

Posted March 24, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog centersofexcellencereport 2016

An increas­ing num­ber of state and local gov­ern­ments are seek­ing to cre­ate bet­ter out­comes for chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies by mak­ing evi­dence-based pro­grams and prac­tices more avail­able to those who serve them. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies are being asked to demon­strate that their inter­ven­tions are being imple­ment­ed effec­tive­ly and are a good use of pub­lic funds. At the same time, there is a grow­ing recog­ni­tion that, with­out ongo­ing sup­port for inno­v­a­tive change and sys­tems reform, these prac­tices can drift back to busi­ness as usu­al. In response to these ongo­ing chal­lenges, cen­ters or part­ner­ships called Cen­ters of Excel­lence (COEs) are emerg­ing across the coun­try to pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance, train­ing, eval­u­a­tion, analy­sis and support.

In a new paper, Build­ing Cross-Sys­tem Imple­men­ta­tion Cen­ters: A Roadmap for State and Local Fam­i­ly- and Child-Serv­ing Agen­cies in Devel­op­ing Cen­ters of Excel­lence (COE), the Insti­tute for Inno­va­tion & Imple­men­ta­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land School of Social Work and the Cen­ter for Inno­v­a­tive Prac­tices at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty explain how COEs work and what they seek to accom­plish, with exam­ples of how such cen­ters have helped improve out­comes for chil­dren and fam­i­lies in com­mu­ni­ties across the country.

The report, fund­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion, offers state and local insti­tu­tions a use­ful road map that includes exam­ples of how these COEs — often housed with­in uni­ver­si­ties or non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions — are sup­port­ing provider orga­ni­za­tions, fam­i­lies, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, researchers and oth­ers nav­i­gat­ing across and with­in sys­tems to reach their goals, includ­ing bet­ter qual­i­ty imple­men­ta­tion of evi­dence-based pro­grams and prac­tices. It explains var­i­ous roles that COEs can play, includ­ing research and eval­u­a­tion sup­port, facil­i­ta­tion of part­ner­ship engage­ment, work­force devel­op­ment activ­i­ties and pol­i­cy and finance exper­tise. The report also high­lights the crit­i­cal work that COEs under­take to bring var­i­ous inter­est­ed par­ties togeth­er around shared visions and goals. It makes the case that strong inter­a­gency part­ner­ships and local com­mu­ni­ty buy-in are essen­tial to devel­op­ing and sus­tain­ing inter­ven­tions that can make a real and last­ing dif­fer­ence in people’s lives.

This report is a valu­able tool for any orga­ni­za­tion, ser­vice agency or prac­ti­tion­er seek­ing to take that next step toward improv­ing out­comes for chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies,” says Jessie Watrous, a senior asso­ciate at the Foun­da­tion. COEs are already play­ing a vital role in some com­mu­ni­ties to ensure evi­dence-based prac­tices and pro­grams are mak­ing the kind of sus­tained progress for chil­dren and fam­i­lies that we all want to see. We hope this pub­li­ca­tion will help spread the word.”

We know that the var­i­ous roles that COEs play have poten­tial for last­ing and trans­for­ma­tive impact,” says Michelle Zabel, assis­tant dean and direc­tor of The Insti­tute for Inno­va­tion & Imple­men­ta­tion. We look for­ward to engag­ing with states and com­mu­ni­ties around this road map.”

Read Build­ing Cross-Sys­tem Imple­men­ta­tion Centers

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