MDC, its partner the United Way of Greater Greensboro (UWGG), and community stakeholders across Guilford County, N.C., are partnering to design and build a “Family Economic Success Ecosystem” to empower vulnerable households out of poverty and towards economic success.
Need for New Approaches
Current approaches to fighting poverty and increasing family economic success, while often individually strong, are not achieving the results that economically vulnerable households need—as shown by the growth, persistence, and concentration of poverty across Guilford County. Our research and experience, including listening sessions with economically vulnerable residents, show that available supports and services for people who need help—with food, shelter, financial resources, education, job training, and placement—are not well coordinated and aligned. Available supports and services are too often underutilized due to insufficient knowledge and barriers to access.
Lack of coordination and underuse are structural problems requiring place-based, systemic, and adaptive approaches. Neuroscience shows that delivering multiple supports and services simultaneously at convenient locations and providing assistance with navigating the complex web of social services are effective strategies for assisting households suffering from financial stress to access needed supports and services. Communities like Guilford County need to create “ecosystems” for increasing access to underused supports, improving systems to coordinate services, and empowering economically vulnerable households to advance their economic mobility and participation.
Developing New Approaches
Responding to the need for place-based, systemic, and adaptive approaches, MDC and UWGG are partnering to establish new and improved systems for empowering economically vulnerable households out of poverty and towards inclusive economic participation and success in Guilford County. This work involves two main strategies, which are establishing four Family Success Centers and a countywide Integrated Services Delivery (ISD) Network.
Both strategies use the two-generation ISD approach to increase access to and coordinate delivery of supports and services to move more economically vulnerable households out of poverty. The ISD approach bundles, sequences, and delivers services to empower economically vulnerable households across three areas: (1) work, health, and income supports; (2) education and career advancement; and (3) financial education and coaching.
Research and practice show that connecting economically vulnerable households with work, income and health supports reduces poverty, boosts employment and wage growth, increases upward economic mobility, enhances financial stability, increases educational performance and attainment, reduces hunger, and improves health outcomes. Research and practice also confirm that bundling, sequencing, and delivering supports across service types, using ISD, increases the odds by three to four times that economically vulnerable households will achieve major economic outcomes—defined as increased levels of education, employment, income, and financial stability.
1. Family Success Centers
UWGG is piloting ISD at physical locations—called Family Success Centers—to improve economic outcomes for families with young children. MDC is helping UWGG scale the Center model to a total of four locations, using an adapted version of an MDC-developed scaling methodology called More to Most.
The pilot “Family Success Center” using ISD in Guilford County—sponsored by the United Way of Greater Greensboro, hosted by Guilford Child Development, and opened in 2015—is operating at full capacity to serve nearly 300 families. During the first 18 months, 30 percent of participating households reported growth in accessing public benefits (10 percent for the comparison group), and 48 percent reported improvement in employment status (13 percent for the comparison group). Participant households experienced higher rates of growth on 26 of 29 indicators of financial stability compared to a demographically similar group.
The second Family Success Center, hosted by the Salvation Army, opened in January 2019. Another, more recent evaluation found that families participating at both Family Success Centers are experiencing gains across multiple domains of financial stability and that longer participation by families within the Centers is associated with better results.
2. ISD Network
UWGG and MDC realize, however, that the community needs to implement the two-gen ISD approach to meet the needs of economically vulnerable households across all of Guilford County (not just in certain neighborhoods served by four Family Success Centers). Therefore, beginning in 2017, UWGG and MDC facilitated the community-based design of an ISD Network to implement ISD across all of Guilford County.
UWGG and MDC convened a local, dozen-member Design Team, 60-member Advisory Council, and community-based listening sessions with economically vulnerable residents. The Design Team, with consultation, input, and decision-making from the Advisory Council and community residents, produced recommendations for creating an “ISD Network” of nonprofit and public service providers working together to coordinate supports and services countywide and to maximize access and impacts for economically vulnerable households.
The Network will enable the delivery of supports and services to be coordinated across all of Guilford County, and for outputs and outcomes to be tracked, measured, and reported by a common system. The Network will produce, measure, and report outputs (in terms of increased usage of supports and services) and outcomes (for economically vulnerable households):
The vision for the ISD Network is that households in Guilford County will live in a state of sustainable economic sufficiency. To move toward this vision, the ISD Network will provide a connected system of support assisting individuals and families as they move to increasingly higher levels of economic sufficiency and stability. Stakeholders are developing the ISD Network as a vehicle for both the delivery of and the payment for services. Service providers would be incentivized and compensated by and through the Network to coordinate and deliver supports and services that produce positive social outcomes for households that are economically valuable to Network funders. This mechanism will incentivize collaboration and efficient delivery of effective services.
UWGG and MDC are working with community stakeholders to prepare the Network for initial implementation in 2020 and to scale the Centers to four locations by 2022. We also are working to secure short-term funding to build the Network and long-term funding to sustain the operations of both the Centers and the Network. UWGG and MDC are exploring how to bring the ISD Network model to more places over time.
For more information, contact MDC Senior Program Director Ralph Gildehaus.