Organizations Learn How to Demonstrate Effectiveness of Programs for People of Color

Posted June 25, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog organizationsdemonstrateeffectiveness 2017

Photo provided by the Future Foundation

Ear­ly-stage but promis­ing pro­grams seek­ing to show that they improve out­comes for chil­dren and fam­i­lies often face a daunt­ing hur­dle: how can they devel­op sys­tem­at­ic process­es and data that will help them mea­sure their success?

Estab­lished four years ago, the Casey Foundation’s Expand­ing Evi­dence port­fo­lio aims to strength­en the capac­i­ty of emerg­ing pro­grams for fam­i­lies of col­or to hone their ser­vice, their iden­ti­ty and the process­es that make them suc­cess­ful at what they do so they can sys­tem­atize and mea­sure the effi­ca­cy of their program.

The pur­pose is to sup­port orga­ni­za­tions that are devel­op­ing pro­grams for peo­ple of col­or to become more evi­dence-based,” said Ayo Atter­ber­ry, a senior asso­ciate with Casey’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group who over­sees Expand­ing Evi­dence. They need space to think strate­gi­cal­ly… and they under­stand that this is going to ben­e­fit them.”

Expand­ing Evi­dence cur­rent­ly sup­ports four orga­ni­za­tions: Future Foun­da­tion in Atlanta, Col­lege and Career Path­ways, Prince Georges Coun­ty, Mary­land, Con Mi Madre in Austin, Texas and Lati­nos in Action in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Foun­da­tion pro­vides tech­ni­cal assis­tance to help them build their eval­u­a­tion capac­i­ty, devel­op log­ic mod­els and ulti­mate­ly ready them to meet the require­ments of Uni­ver­si­ty of Colorado’s Blue­prints for Healthy Youth Devel­op­ment, the indus­try stan­dard-bear­er for evi­dence-based inter­ven­tion and pre­ven­tion pro­grams. And although the pro­grams vary in the ser­vices they pro­vide, they are all at the point in their devel­op­ment where they can be pushed to the next lev­el of pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion, Atter­ber­ry says.

Future Foun­da­tion is a prime exam­ple. When Atlanta high school track star Qaadi­rah Abdur-Rahim stepped onto the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, with a new­ly mint­ed ath­let­ic schol­ar­ship in hand, she quick­ly learned that her pub­lic school edu­ca­tion in Atlanta’s South Side hadn’t pre­pared her for the aca­d­e­m­ic rig­ors of col­lege. Her broth­er, Sha­reef, had faced the same real­i­ty when he attend­ed Berke­ley on a bas­ket­ball schol­ar­ship a year earlier.

The sib­lings decid­ed then that if they ever got the chance, they would change the aca­d­e­m­ic fate of young peo­ple who grew up in the same dis­ad­van­taged areas of Atlanta. Their promise became a real­i­ty when Sha­reef was recruit­ed as a pro­fes­sion­al bas­ket­ball play­er. In 2004, he gave $250,000 to start the after­school pro­gram, which Qaadi­rah would run.

Under her lead­er­ship, Future Foun­da­tion grew from a staff of two peo­ple to 30 with a near­ly $2 mil­lion bud­get, serv­ing 5,000 kids and their fam­i­lies by 2010. A per­fect 100% of stu­dents in their pro­gram grad­u­at­ed from high school in an area that typ­i­cal­ly saw a 65% grad­u­a­tion rate.

The pro­gram offered a full array of ser­vices, from fit­ness and health to tutor­ing and peer rela­tions to pos­i­tive par­ent­ing. Then the Foundation’s Atlanta Lead­ers for Results net­work plant­ed the seed that Future Foun­da­tion could go beyond chang­ing the lives of indi­vid­ual youth to affect sys­tem-lev­el approach­es. Expand­ing Evi­dence showed Abdur-Rahim that Future Foun­da­tion could be stronger if it clar­i­fied its mis­sion and built up evi­dence demon­strat­ing their effectiveness.

It was just what Abdur-Rahim need­ed to push Future Foun­da­tion for­ward. She earned an MBA from Emory and worked with the organization’s board to devel­op a the­o­ry of change. They con­sol­i­dat­ed and sharp­ened the organization’s ser­vices, and in 2017, they launched a new mod­el that con­nects 260 mid­dle and high school kids most at risk for drop­ping out with mul­ti­ple ser­vices avail­able through pub­lic, pri­vate and non-prof­it agen­cies. They are cur­rent­ly col­lect­ing data from their pilot. Future Foun­da­tion is also work­ing to cre­ate a learn­ing lab among stake­hold­ers using real-time data and tech­nol­o­gy to con­tin­u­ous­ly improve their work.

The evi­dence they gath­er will fuel their growth and posi­tion them and the oth­er three orga­ni­za­tions to con­tin­ue to devel­op bet­ter pro­gram­ming with more robust data, Atter­ber­ry says.

Learn more about Casey’s approach to build­ing evidence

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