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 Controlled 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!

Research Spotlight: Exploring Resource Stability, Part 1

Research Spotlight: Exploring Resource Stability, Part 1

What does it mean to have resource stability? CCFW’s Research and Evaluation team defines it as having one’s basic needs met. This includes housing, food, transportation, childcare – to name a few. Simple, right? Well, the reality is more layered than we might think....

Research Spotlight: 2021 End of Year Summary

Research Spotlight: 2021 End of Year Summary

Overview2021 was another meaningful and humbling year of service for our agency. We continued to serve families impacted by COVID-19. We responded to additional unexpected crises, including Winter Storm Uri and the collapse of Afghanistan. And we embraced a large...

Having Self-Awareness in Our Solutions: Why We’ll Never Know Enough

Having Self-Awareness in Our Solutions: Why We’ll Never Know Enough

As we begin a new year, we are keenly aware of the challenging and complex dynamics faced by those we serve. Last year, the U.S. experienced an average inflation rate of 9.1%, including a 14.1% increase in the cost of housing and a 47.6% increase in the cost of...

Research Spotlight: Resource Stability Pathway

Research Spotlight: Resource Stability Pathway

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you didn’t have reliable transportation? Would you be able to keep your current job? What if the closest affordable housing was 20+ miles from your place of work, or you were struggling to provide enough food for your...

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