Evaluation BlogEvaluation (noun)
assessment, appraisal, judgment, gauging, rating, estimation, consideration; analysis, examination, checkup, workup, test, review.

When MEDA worked with San Francisco city agencies and a cadre of community nonprofit service providers to obtain a $30 million federal grant to start the Mission Promise Neighborhood, based on the successful Harlem’s Children Zone in New York, it was clear that an expert evaluation team was needed. This was partly due to federal mandates for collecting data about the impact of the initiative on the participants in the four schools of MPN, plus the surrounding Mission District community. The other need came about because the 18 of the 26 MPN partners that serve clients do not have the data and evaluation capacity to compile data. The funding these agencies received was earmarked for providing services, not for collecting data on the impact of their programs.

So, the MEDA Evaluation Team was tasked with offering capacity building to all partners, thereby ensuring optimized services for clients.

The Need
To ascertain the partners’ ability to meet data requirements, MEDA conducted a data-capacity assessment.

Of the MPN partners that serve children, youths and families (18),

  • Four out of 18 track outgoing or incoming referral information.
  • All collect outputs, but fewer collect data that depicts quality of effort (16 of 18) or quality of effect (15 of 18).

All 26 partners collect important information about their programs, from activities to participant demographics; however, the main barriers to fully utilizing their data to demonstrate impact were low staff capacity, dearth of in-house evaluation expertise and lack of useful data-management systems.

Eliza BaezaExplains MEDA Evaluator Elisa Baeza, “Our data capacity assessment was motivated by the need to ensure the sustainability of our partner agencies that do amazing work serving the Mission District community.”

The goal? To lift up partner agencies by building up their capacity to collect and utilize data to analyze, learn from and enhance their programs and services, with the hope that through such technical support, partners will adopt a common practice of strategically using data to make informed decisions about how their services are being implemented.

Continues Baeza, “It doesn’t mean doing more work to get there; it simply means doing the work differently so that organizations may flourish and participants benefit.”

Partner Case
Parents for Public Schools-San Francisco (PPS-SF) needed a streamlined process for collecting demographic information about their participants, which in turn limited their capacity to tailor services to their client base. MEDA’s evaluation team helped PPS-SF create an intake form that would capture essential demographic information on their clients so that they can better understand who is accessing their services, offer more targeted services and enhance their ability to offer funders the pertinent client data they require.

Masharika Maddison, Executive Director, explains her organization’s need: “At PPS-SF, we’re committed to supporting student success through our parent-facing programs and services. Informed parents are better equipped to support their student learners through their academic journey. Meaningful intake forms are a critical first step in ensuring we have the most valuable data possible to align our resources to our parent program participants.”

1. Monica E. LopezDr. Monica Lopez, Associate Director of Evaluation, further explains: “An agency’s ability to communicate the work that they do and the impact that this work is having on the populations they serve in numbers and figures – or data – is extremely important. Being able to utilize data to effectively communicate the value of a program to diverse stakeholders and funders can influence an agency’s ability to remain sustainable. Data utilized effectively can also help improve the quality of programs and services. It is a win-win for everybody. For agencies to be effective advocates for their programs and services, they need data . . . and collecting the right set of data is a task that requires both resources and know-how – this is what we refer to as Data Capacity and this is what we here at the Mission Promise Neighborhood are trying to build for all of our partners.”

Recognition in the field
The team of Lopez and Baeza are working on identifying avenues for sharing their data capacity work with other Promise Neighborhoods. The pair were recently brainstorming at the Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference, held a couple of weeks ago in Arlington, VA.

There are now discussions about a Webinar, in collaboration with PolicyLink. The date is to be determined.

Another honor bestowed on Lopez and Baeza is their being asked to present this November 15-19 at the American Public Health Association (APHA) National Conference in New Orleans. Getting an abstract accepted is a difficult process, making this honor all the greater.

This year’s conference focuses on healthography, the study of how where you live affects your health. Lopez will be presenting on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on patient enrollment at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, a project that she and MEDA’s Amelia M. Martinez Cantos are trying to get off the ground; this project endeavors to take into account contextual factors within the changing Mission community.

Baeza will be the lead presenter, with Lopez as backup, on the data capacity work MEDA has been conducting with partners as it contributes to building systems that can track health outcomes for MPN clients.

“It is an honor for Elisa and I to be able to share our work, which is always evolving and being refined. Our evaluation team is dedicated to putting forth the best data available to help MEDA and its partners best serve clients in the Mission,” concludes Lopez.

Presentation links:

Impact of the Affordable Care Act on a Community Clinic serving immigrant Latinos: The role of health policy, community needs, and gentrification on sustainability

From the ground up: Assessing and building the data capacity of community-based agencies in the Mission Promise Neighborhood collaborative

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PolicyLink Blog #2 BlogWhen MEDA received a federal grant in December 2012 to start a Promise Neighborhood at a quartet of low-performing schools in San Francisco’s Mission District, the four-decades-old agency remained at the vanguard of nonprofit best practices by implementing a comprehensive service integration strategy, whereby the families of students are offered free asset-building services. The aim is that every family succeeds and every student achieves, as these two outcomes are intricately linked. Staff know that the stressors of a family in economic distress create obstacles to a student’s academic success.

MEDA is proud to announce that its Mission Promise Neighborhood efforts have been recognized as part of a just-released, 50-page guide from PolicyLink, the Oakland-based, national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity. Entitled Integrating Family Financial Security into Promise Neighborhoods: A Resource and Implementation Guide, this influential work “aims to describe the programs, policies and practices that set families on a path to financial security while achieving prescribed Promise Neighborhoods results.” This guide is part of the Growing Assets Program—generously funded by The Citi Foundation—with the goal of incorporating essential asset-building strategies into the network of Promise Neighborhoods across the nation.

The Citi Foundation offers the needed support so that myriad programs can allow community partners to test, deliver and scale innovative approaches to asset building. These programs are designed to provide consumers with the tools and support they need to achieve their fiscal goals, morphing financial ken into efficacious action. Financial coaching and counseling programs abet consumers to implement financial plans, make payments, increase their savings, reduce debt and build their credit.

The report was co-authored by Alexandra Bastien and Solana Rice. Bastien, the current program associate at PolicyLink, conducts research on policy solutions to address the racial wealth gap and maintains a compendium of resources on strategies to achieve financial security for all. Rice was an associate director for over five years at PolicyLink, where she directed research on asset building and other strategies focused on enhancing economic security in financially challenged communities, particularly communities of color.

Bastien explains the guide’s purpose as follows: “There is substantial research that shows that low-income families can save. Savings and assets are the tools that allow families to withstand financial crisis and invest in their future. In addition, children with a savings account in their own name are 2.5 times more likely to enroll in college than children with no account.”

Pages 30-34 of the guide showcase the case study of MEDA’s best practices relating to the nonprofit’s innovative service integration model that aims to create assets for its low-income, mostly Latino families, who are often immigrants. The guide advises that this insightful case study should serve as an example other Promise Neighborhoods should follow.

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One powerful quote from the MEDA case study claims: “Bringing financial education ‘in-house’ to select schools and hubs is filling a significant gap in clients’ knowledge and services. This approach of ‘meeting people where they are’ is proving to be a valuable one and is facilitating MEDA’s entry into new areas of the community and the recruitment of families into the MPN pipeline.“

To start sharing this report’s important data, MEDA’s Director of Asset Building Programs, Christi Baker, has been tasked with leading a presentation on this PolicyLink guide at the Promise Neighborhoods National Network Conference, being held this week in Arlington, Virginia.

Also, PolicyLink will be conducting a Webinar July 10th at 11am PT, with information in the guidebook being delved into further. Check back for details.

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We are excited about our partnership with PolicyLink, the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment and Citi to document and share best practices for asset building in Promise Neighborhoods -and we are starting right here in the Mission. The Mission Promise Neighborhood will work to ensure every family has the resources they need to be financially successful.

Read the Huffington Post about our Asset Building Services below.
Click here to go to Huffington Post website.

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Posted: 11/06/2013
By: Pam Flaherty and Angela Glover Blackwell

In the third of this week’s series of four blog-eds by the Asset Building Policy Network, Pam Flaherty and Angela Glover Blackwell highlight how asset building can help unlock opportunity in America.

There is a looming crisis that threatens to confine a generation of young Americans to a life of limited opportunity and low prospects. Consider this statistic: by 2018, 45 percent of all jobs will require an associate’s degree or higher. Yet today, only 27 percent of African Americans, 26 percent of U.S.-born Latinos, and 14 percent of Latino immigrants have that level of education. By 2020, 5 million jobs will go unfilled unless we increase the number of college graduates, and that includes those from low-income communities of color. The jobs gap may undermine our national economy and our ability to compete and create a prosperous society for all.

To plug this opportunity gap, over 50 Promise Neighborhoods across the country – including 36 that have received funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program – are working to improve educational outcomes in underserved communities. Promise Neighborhoods are communities of opportunity weaving an integrated collection of services around children and families to link education, health, housing, and other social supports that are strong enough to ensure that children can grow up safely, in good health, graduate from college, and acquire good jobs.

Now, several Promise Neighborhoods are incorporating a crucial new element to their initiatives – asset building. Asset building strategies like financial education, children’s savings programs, predatory lending protection, and investment guidance empower low-income families to achieve long term financial goals and build wealth. Children’s savings accounts (CSAs) are a good example to demonstrate how asset building works.

Children with savings accounts are up to seven times more likely to attend college than those without an account. This is true regardless of family income, race, or educational attainment. Few facts better illustrate the power of financial inclusion – the provision of safe and affordable financial services to low-income and underserved families – to unlock economic opportunity. Local groups are leading the way: the Mission Promise Neighborhood in San Francisco has partnered with the mayor’s office’s Kindergarten to College program to provide CSAs for every child in the neighborhood. More than just a savings account, CSAs focus parents and students on planning for the future, which in turn strengthens their commitment to what they need to do today to make college a reality.

We need to support more young people on the path to college success. The Asset Building Policy Network, a coalition of the nation’s preeminent civil rights and advocacy organizations and Citi, with funding from the Citi Foundation, has launched an exciting new project with PolicyLink to incorporate essential asset-building strategies into the network of Promise Neighborhoods, scaling up its network to serve over 200,000 children and families by 2016.

Collectively, we aim to break the cycle of generational poverty and build brighter futures for children and families, and our national economy.

About the Asset Building Policy Network

The Asset Building Policy Network (ABPN) is a national coalition that collectively advances savings and asset building policy at the federal level, builds national capacity of the network’s members, and bolsters long-term financial security for low- and moderate-income communities of color. ABPN members include: Center for American ProgressCiti,Corporation for Enterprise DevelopmentNational Association for Latino Community Asset BuildersNational Council for La RazaNational Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community DevelopmentNational Urban League and PolicyLink.

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