RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING IMPACT

Our clients deserve our best

Several years ago, our agency shifted its focus. We realized we wanted to do more than serve those in need, based on what they needed today. We determined we wanted to truly end poverty for families in a meaningful and sustainable way for years to come. Our clients deserve solutions that are proven to be effective, solutions that result in long-term stability and holistic well-being. That’s why we began to invest more fully in efforts to evaluate our impact. We created our own Research and Evaluation (R&E) Team.

We set the following goals for our R&E endeavors:

  • Learn how to disrupt poverty permanently
  • Develop a gold-standard model of case management
  • Build evidence of what works through a rigorous impact evaluation
  • Inspire other agencies to implement our models
  • Advocate for change in the structures of society

 

Designing programs around the client

Design thinking is critical to our research efforts. These steps are interwoven, providing feedback throughout the process that requires us to continually revisit the problem and ask more questions. This is how we refine our programs to best serve clients.

Our philosophy for designing programs is rooted in human-centered design which means we ask ourselves: How can this program be designed around a client’s needs and strengths? We build up from our understanding of the client, rather than ask the client to conform to the needs of our program.

  1. We Empathize in order to understand the people we are helping – what problems do they face and what solutions have they already tried. We seek to learn from their perspective.
  2. We Define the objective. We move beyond the obvious need and ask more questions, seeking to meaningfully impact a client’s experiences.
  3. We Ideate all possible solutions. We think big, suspend judgement, and go underneath the surface in order to consider multiple angles and perspectives. We ask questions and keep digging.
  4. We Prototype to see what the proposed solution looks like. We sketch it out, create a storyboard, think critically and change directions as needed. We get outside opinions and identify holes.
  5. We Test in order to determine what works and what doesn’t. We use our insights to revisit the problem and discuss new ideas.

Evaluation process

There are three major evaluation tools that we use to eradicate poverty: implementation evaluation, formative evaluation and impact evaluation.

  • Implementation Evaluation: We look at the program’s activities and outputs. This is where we assess if we are implementing the program correctly, if we have the right resources/activities.
  • Formation Evaluation: We evaluate the more and less effective aspects of the program. Are the desired outcomes being achieved?
  • Impact Evaluation: Looking at the bigger picture, what are the holistic results of the program? What are the outcomes?

Collaborating with Research Experts

In addition to our extensive internal evaluation, we partner with third-party researchers at the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame to validate our findings through Randomized Control Trials (RCTs).

RCTs are considered the gold-standard model for impact evaluation, comparing what happened to what would have happened if participants had not enrolled in the program in question. LEO provides the expertise in research that we needed and we provide the expertise in social services to inform their process.

Stay the Course – Improving Post-Secondary Education Success

Results from LEO show definitively that our community college persistence program, Stay the Course, is making a meaningful difference. When paired with a case manager, students increase their success of graduating at a rate 4x higher than those who don’t receive our services. 

Padua Pilot – A Better Way to End Poverty

Five years ago, we launched our Padua Pilot – a bold research initiative to pioneer a new and improved model for long-term case management: Holistic, relationship-based, client-led, and research-backed. Findings from LEO revealed real improvements in self-sufficiency and labor market outcomes for Padua participants. 

Research Spotlights

Check out our past Research Spotlights below and stay up-to-date on insights from our Research & Evaluation Team by signing up for our monthly Research Spotlights Newsletter!

New Research on Why Padua Works

New Research on Why Padua Works

Why We Created Padua There are 100+ federal anti-poverty programs in the United States – siloed by need (housing, food, etc.) and consisting of complicated/confusing requirements and paperwork. For a family trying to get out of poverty, this can be overwhelming. They...

Research Spotlight: How Exactly We “Evaluate”

Research Spotlight: How Exactly We “Evaluate”

We do a lot of work in “R&E,” a term used to define our work in Research and Evaluation. While we’ve spent some time talking about our research, it can be helpful to know what program evaluation looks like.  Evaluation takes the form of an ever-circling 6-part...

Research Spotlight: On Getting Feedback from Those Who Left

Research Spotlight: On Getting Feedback from Those Who Left

The heart of our work is long-term interventions, so keeping clients engaged enhances the effectiveness of our interventions. So when we started noticing students leaving our Stay the Course program after the winter break, we began asking “why?” On the back end, we...

Research Spotlight: Fair Play in Data

Research Spotlight: Fair Play in Data

It’s no secret that societal injustice disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, perpetuating disparities and sustaining imbalances of power. But perhaps lesser-known is that the world of data is no exception. Systems of information collection are designed...

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