Santa Cruz County’s Multi-Agency Approach to Results Count
The government of Santa Cruz County, California, has started using Results Count® — the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s approach to leadership development — as a framework for accelerating the well-being of the county’s residents, particularly groups who face the greatest barriers to success. Although Results Count has been embraced by many nonprofit organizations and individual public agencies, the County of Santa Cruz is working comprehensively to align the work several agencies toward a common goal.
“Results Count is helping us put a more solid framework around the county’s strategic plan and giving us a clearer path to achieving equitable results,” says Sven Stafford, principal administrative analyst for the County of Santa Cruz. “We know we need to be collaborative and more aligned, and Results Count is helping to move this work forward.”
Breaking Through Silos
As part of its strategic planning, the County of Santa Cruz already had established a fundamental component of any Results Count program: a long-term population-level result that serves as a call-to-action and guides the work. Adopted by the county’s governing Board of Supervisors, the call-to-action states: “Santa Cruz County is a healthy, safe and more affordable community that is culturally diverse, economically inclusive and environmentally vibrant.”
Impressed by the ways the county’s Probation Department uses Results Count skills and tools to make measurable differences on behalf of the people it serves — such as partnering with school districts to increase high school graduation rates for students on probation — the County Administrative Office brought together a high-level interagency group to strengthen implementation of the call-to-action.
“Our agencies sometimes work in silos because they’ve got different ordinances and laws that govern their individual work,” says Stafford. “To really meet the needs of the residents of Santa Cruz County, our work needs to be aligned to create equitable opportunities and change systems.”
County leaders have completed three of seven seminars where they are practicing and applying Results Count tools, skills and competencies. Seminar topics include:
- using data to accelerate progress on specific indicators, reveal disparities and make action commitments;
- employing factor analysis to understand root causes of problems and inform the development of targeted and universal strategies to reduce disparities;
- using the Plan-Do-Study-Act Method and devising “small tests of change” to experiment with strategy;
- leveraging personal power and organizational authority to achieve better agency and countywide results; and
- managing conflicts productively and applying other Results-Based Facilitation™ skills.
All the county leaders have identified a specific equity-focused result related to the larger call-to-action. For example, the newly established Public Defender’s Office decided to focus on ensuring that Latino men ages 18 to 35 who have law enforcement contact and are eligible for public defender services receive legal representation before their first court date.
During the first 72 hours of incarceration, people without resources and legal representation can lose their jobs, their children and even their housing. Studies have shown, however, that early representation leads to decreased recidivism and incarceration, as well as increased access to housing and employment benefits and treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders.
In addition to completing the series of Results Count seminars, next steps for county leaders include working with their own staff to refine performance measures for their results and connecting their strategies with those of other agencies in ways that contribute to the countywide goal.
A critical step for county leaders will be testing the validity of their analyses and strategies with the groups and communities they seek to serve. “Public systems often operate in their own bubble, independently creating programs ‘for’ people but not ‘with’ them,” says Shanda C. Crowder, a senior associate in Leadership Development with the Casey Foundation. “What they don’t do often enough is go to communities and say, ‘Here’s the problem. Here’s what we’re thinking. What do you think?’”