Shared Database-Blog

“The price of light is less than the cost of darkness.”
–Arthur C. Nielsen, market researcher and founder of ACNielsen

The need and challenge
Michelle Reiss-Top (photo, top right) definitely understands the aforementioned quote about data. MEDA’s technology and data systems manager was tasked with implementing and optimizing Salesforce internally–a Herculean task by itself. Imagine then being asked to do so for a cadre of neighborhood partners.

Good thing Reiss-Top showcases over 12 years experience implementing systems and making processes more efficient, user friendly and economical. This is complemented by her experience in the nonprofit and human services arena, with a focus on bringing innovative technology to the service providers of San Francisco’s Mission District.

The latest challenge for the Salesforce expert was to bridge the data-collection gap among service providers of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), a citywide community partnership with the goal of ensuring that every Mission District family is economically prosperous, and that every child succeeds in school and graduates from college. MEDA serves as lead agency of this federal initiative.

Reiss-Top was aware that there was no cookie-cutter application for data sharing among 11 MPN partners. MEDA Evaluator Elisa Baeza had the laborious assignment of standardizing partner data she collected. These data were in Excel files, but no style guide had ever been created, leading to fellow MEDA Evaluator Severin Saenz having to always clean up files for consistency (e.g., dates being entered in a consistent manner). The information would then be sent to the U.S. Department of Education, with the biggest drawback being that partners would never see what other organizations were doing and which clients they were jointly serving.

The outcome
The good news is that with the completion of this intensive, four-month project, consistent data collection has become a reality.

The other good news is that there are now important insights provided by these partner data that have been collected. Take the case of MPN partner Mission Graduates, which assists high schoolers in being college ready via mentorships. The organization can now see if the student’s parents have or have not accessed other neighborhood services relating to family economic success.

On a grand scale, information can now be garnered on the status of approximately 600 MPN families. The MPN team can now also know how many clients are being served by multiple agencies, plus how much time these families are spending accessing various services. Later, there will be matching of these data with students’ school outcomes. There are built-in security measures to protect client confidentiality.

There had some initial forays into the world of data sharing among partners. Explains Reiss-Top of the lessons learned from these attempts: “The MEDA evaluation team learned some valuable lessons. The first thing we did was develop a questionnaire for partners to learn the data-collecting reality at each organization. We asked what’s missing and what would add value. This was imperative.”

Each partner’s data coordinator receives training at MEDA. The initial training was held last Thursday in Plaza Adelante’s computer lab. Training topics include: avoiding duplicate records; quickly replicating service records; a holistic view of a household’s services and needs; reports, dashboards and ways to request more analysis and support.

As a reference tool, Reiss-Top has created a comprehensive, 44-page manual. There will later be a one-on-one training from a MEDA evaluation team member at the partner’s office, using that organization’s data.

“MPN’s hope is that each organization will find synergy with a number of partners. We have 100 community member licenses for partner users of different types. A ‘light’ user, like an executive director, can access reports. A program manager can quickly communicate with the community to share resources or expertise. This is a powerful tool. The partners at our first demo clapped when they saw their services and clients on a dashboard!” concludes an enthusiastic Reiss-Top.

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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.


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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