by Director of Program Evaluation, Learning and Impact Morgan Buras-Finlay

The seemingly innocuous “referral” is a mainstay of nonprofits — the most-basic way organizations ensure they meet the needs of the communities they serve. Such referrals support individuals and families as they navigate the ever-complex and changing network of nonprofits, government agencies and institutions.

Yet even in 2018 the majority of referrals are still shared via fax, phone or paper, hindering accountability and leading to a paucity of insights into the services offered.

From its inception in 2012, the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) education initiative has taken a collective-impact approach to community engagement and service delivery. The defining factor was the creation of a 20-partner network supporting families and their children along a continuum of asset building and academic achievement.

It was imperative that MPN require a method for measuring the health of the partner network, thereby providing accountability as it relates to service integration. This need evolved into MPN’s Referral Network Tool.

“I have firsthand seen the power of the implementation of the Referral Network Tool. Our partners no longer work in silos, and impact is now all the greater, as we strengthen our families,” explains Family Support Manager Celina Ramos-Castro.

After 2.5 years of collecting referral data, MPN is now able to see trends and speak to lessons learned.

The numbers tell the story: The MPN network generated 4,389 referrals and impacted 2,303 individual families between Jan. 1, 2014 and Aug. 1, 2017.

During that time, the following lessons were learned around three main topics:

  1. Digital Referral Networks. These networks are where hardware (technology) meets software (real people), and both must be mutually reinforcing. Ensuring that the human needs are being met will make certain the technological solution takes hold.
  2. Network hubs. Think of this as spokes on a wheel. It is crucial to have a few designated individuals out in the field and dedicated to connecting families.
  3. Service Areas. Networks must include the services areas most needed by the community. Data on referrals will illuminate these service areas.

View the full brief.

Note: The article was presented as a poster at USF Data Institute Conference in November, 2017.

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Christopher Gil
Senior Content Marketing Manager
Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)
(415) 282-3334 ext. 152

March 22, 2017

Timely Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey Released
Showcases the continued need to strengthen the Mission’s Latino community

San Francisco, Calif. — The Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) has released a report, “The Story of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Community: Results and Trends from the 2014 & 2016 MPN Neighborhood Survey,” offering an in-depth analysis of ongoing neighborhood need. Families living in the Mission or with a child going to school in the Mission were included in the analyses for this report, representing nearly 600 families and 1,300 children under the age of 24.

The survey evidenced some major achievements of the MPN education initiative. For example, there are now 13 percent more families reading to infants or toddlers at least three times a week, and over 91 percent of students from kindergarten to eighth grade reading to themselves for that amount of time. Graduations have increased 10 percent at MPN’s John O’Connell High School — closing the gap with the San Francisco Unified District’s citywide rate — with a college-going culture at home becoming the norm.

“MPN’s work has delivered true impact. That must continue, as the need to strengthen our families is more important than ever with the nation’s political climate shift. I challenge the community at large to come into the fold and become part of MPN’s work moving forward,” states MPN Director Raquel Donoso.

This critical report’s salient findings also put forth data verifying many of the ongoing issues in San Francisco’s Mission District. For example, it is a common topic of conversation that there is a widening income gap in the neighborhood, showcased by the fact that San Francisco’s median household income of $78,378 is more than twice that of the $35,000 or less earned by 77 percent of MPN families. While the City likes to tout its historically low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, the survey indicated that 14 percent of respondents are unemployed; therefore, based upon their income and level of educational attainment, it can be inferred that they are not benefitting as much from San Francisco’s tech boom. The survey even found that 31 percent of MPN families do not have a bank account, compared to 6.2 percent statewide.

With regard to the Mission’s ongoing housing crisis, it was determined that 61 percent of MPN families are cost burdened by the monthly price of shelter (HUD defines a “cost burden” as housing costs that exceed 30 percent of monthly income.) No wonder that 40 percent of survey respondents – of which 92 percent are renters — claimed they often worried about being forced to move due to increased rent or cost of living.

San Francisco’s Mission District has been facing — and continues to face — one of the most severe housing crises of any neighborhood in the nation, with about 8,000 people displaced from this community in the last decade. That’s over 25 percent. Displacement has recently become an even greater threat to the community, pushing vulnerable families out of our Sanctuary City, with its safeguards and legal representation from immigration officials, universal healthcare with Healthy SF, tenants’ rights and rent control, and culturally relevant access to services to help working families succeed.

Combatting such issues is why the MPN education initiative started back in 2013, with over 20 community-based organizations ensuring that families succeed so students achieve. The need to continue the impactful work of MPN is quite apparent while poring over the pages of this comprehensive report.

Press and those writing papers are welcome to use data from the report (citation: Mission Promise Neighborhood. (2017). The Story of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Community: Results and Trends from the 2014 & 2016 MPN Neighborhood Survey.)


About Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN)
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.



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2025-01292016_EVN-Beatriz Antunez Salesforce Webinar Social Media Images_blog_640x295px

Data. Information. Facts.

No matter how you say it, sharing data can be powerful, but it takes the right opportunity and a team of experts to make that a reality. That opportunity came from the Department of Education three years ago, with the creation and funding of the Mission Promise Neighborhood – a federal initiative to support children on a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum.

The strategy
As Director of Evaluation for the Mission Promise Neighborhood, Monica Lopez has ensured that her team is at the vanguard of innovation as it pertains to emerging data-sharing technologies.

There was an immediate need for MEDA, the lead agency, to research options for data sharing among partners of the initiative. A flexible technology was required to create a robust platform to share information about clients in San Francisco’s Mission District.

That’s when Technology/Data Systems Manager Michelle Reiss-Top put her know-how into action, starting the momentum of an impactful strategy that is still unfolding. Reiss-Top knew that Exponent Partners offered a superior product that could be integrated into Salesforce. She also knew that Exponent Partners’ founder, Rem Hoffman, had a nonprofit background and had built his platform with community-based organizations in mind.

In March 2015, a customized data-sharing platform was launched. Since that time, 75 staff at 13 Mission Promise Neighborhood partner agencies have been given a license and been trained on how to use Salesforce as a referral tool – trainings spearheaded by Reiss-Top at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante and in the nonprofits’ offices.

The webinar
Reiss-Top took her training strategies to the next level on Tuesday, being an integral part of a 60-minute Salesforce webinar called, “Managing Results for Human Services Agencies and Collective Impact: MEDA and Exponent Partners.”

Salesforce described this live event as follows:

“Human Services agencies are increasingly looking to work collaboratively with other organizations to tackle society’s most difficult challenges, through collective impact initiatives like the Promise Neighborhoods. In this live webinar, hear how Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) uses both Exponent Case Management and Salesforce Communities to bring together a network of agencies, community-based organizations and schools to help families in the Mission Promise Neighborhood thrive.”

First up was Jesse Maddex of Exponent Partners, who educated the audience of 150 via a high-level view of his company’s platform as a solution for nonprofits’ case management.

Maddex next introduced Reiss-Top to bring the product’s use to life – especially its use among a diverse community of organizations serving a targeted population. Maddex had asked her to join him because he deemed as unique the use case being implemented among Mission Promise Neighborhood partners. He also valued the scope of the project being undertaken.

After explaining how the shared database works, Reiss-Top answered some questions. The common theme was security concerns, especially as related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These fears were allayed by Reiss-Top, as she explained that Salesforce is HIPAA compliant, plus users can build in higher levels of security into the platform, which she has done for the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Reiss-Top also knows that sharing this model is important. She describes her being part of the webinar as follows: “We can use this technical solution to help staff take action on the data we collect from our clients. It highlights their needs and relieves the staff of the burden of searching through the data looking for clients, saving staff time and providing more meaningful interactions with clients.”

What are the next steps for the Mission Promise Neighborhood evaluation team?

Explains Lopez, “Mission Promise Neighborhood’s aim is to have partners become active users, consistently updating information so that this system is a living, breathing thing.”

Watch the Salesforce webinar.


About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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MPN Latina Teens-BlogAs part of the Promise Neighborhood grant, the United States Department of Education (DoE) mandates that all Promise Neighborhood grantees administer an annual school climate survey, at their target middle and high schools, to understand the impact of the initiative on students. Findings from the first school climate survey for the Mission Promise Neighborhood are now available in a just-released report, entitled Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) School Climate Survey: Understanding the experiences of students in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The lead researcher on this study was Dr. Monica E. Lopez, Interim Director of Evaluation at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), which acts as the lead agency for this federal initiative.

Interview with:

17. Monica E. Lopez

Monica Lopez, MSW, PhD
Interim Director of Evaluation

MEDA: When and where was the survey administered?
ML: The MPN School Climate Survey was administered at two Mission District schools, Everett Middle School and John O’Connell High School. Students were asked about their schooling experience, including feelings of safety at school and traveling to and from school, their use of technology in and outside of school and other issues related to their educational experience. This was a self-administered, 20-minute survey taken in the classroom, with MPN garnering the needed cooperation of principals, teachers and Community School Coordinators.

MEDA: What is the survey’s main purpose?
Initially, the survey was conceptualized as a means of capturing data on population-based indicators (GPRAs) mandated by the DoE, essential to tracking the impact of the initiative at a national level over time. Some of these indicators include school safety, consumption of fruits and vegetables, exercise habits and internet access.

We expanded the scope of the survey to include questions about students’ college and career aspirations, perceptions of school climate and social support within the school, and the types of messaging about college that students may be receiving at home.

MEDA: How many students were surveyed?
ML: There were 699 students (82 percent) who responded to our survey. Administration was achieved with the collaboration of teachers, Community School Coordinators and principals at target schools.

MEDA: What statistics were most surprising?
There were unexpected differences in students’ responses based on gender where I had not anticipated them. For instance, in terms of school safety, I had expected to find male students feeling less safe at school than females, based on data that tell us that male students in general engage in physical fights at school at higher rates than females. This was not the case, however, and females actually felt significantly less safe at school than males.

Another interesting finding was related to college and career aspirations. More female students reported that they planned to attend a four-year college than male students, yet there were no differences by gender in terms of the type of messages that students received from their parents about college or in their level of confidence in their ability to attend college.

I must note that our data suggest that there may be a gap between college aspirations and actual college attendance. Our survey shows that 57 percent of our target school seniors plan to attend a four-year college. Data from the 2012 National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), however, reported that only 36 percent of students from our target school actually enrolled in a four-year college. Although NSC data are from 2012, their data show that few John O’Connell students actually enroll in a four-year college. We will be able to compare our survey data with data from the 2014 NSC, when it becomes available, to see if there is indeed a gap as data seem to suggest. The next step would be to figure out the root causes for this gap and to see how these can be addressed by our initiative.

MEDA: What do you plan to do with this survey information?
These data will be shared with principals, teachers, community leaders, parents and students. The plan is to disseminate the report in educational circles. MPN Family Success Coaches, who work closely with parents at our target schools, will be availed of these data so that they can assist families. The same holds true of the MPN promotora/es, who will be advised about the statistics and given flyers to distribute to families during grassroots outreach. When it comes to the families themselves, the plan is to create informational flyers, based on topic, with easy-to-understand action steps. These data mean nothing without appropriate action to remedy issues in the community.

MEDA: When is the next School Climate Survey?
There will be another survey in spring 2015. This will provide an interesting comparison because John O’Connell High School has implemented a lab model, based on the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) paradigm in Clovis, California. CART is organized around four career clusters: Professional Sciences; Engineering; Advanced Communications; and Global Economics. Within each cluster are career-specific labs, in which students complete industry-based projects and receive academic credit for advanced English, science, math and technology. John O’Connell High School has its own tailored version of this model and it will be interesting to see what has changed based on this new school set up.

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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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(415) 569-2699
2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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