Results-Based Accountability Advice
1. Look at the research, but don't be limited by research. Find out what has worked in other places to turn the curves you are working on. But research will never give us all or even most of the answers. Use your common sense and knowledge of your community to decide what will work here.
2. Consider no-cost and low-cost ideas. Money is important but it is not everything. The community has more energy than money can buy. When people are given permission to think about no-cost and low-cost actions, often half to two thirds of their ideas can be accomplished without new money.
3. There are two pointers to what works in the preceding steps of the process. Each element of the story behind the baseline is a pointer to action. And each partner or potential partner is a pointer to action.
4. Rate your ideas against criteria. Consider SPECIFICITY (Is this idea actionable?); LEVERAGE (How much impact will it have on the curve?); VALUES (Is it consistent with our personal and community values?); and REACH (Is it feasible and affordable this year, next year, 2 to 10 years).
5. Fit the pieces together. Having selected priorities for action is not the same as having a coherent plan. We need to consider how these pieces fit together in a system of services and supports, not just a loose confederation of good ideas.
Given the results we want (children healthy and ready for school) ;
Given the indicators of those results and the story behind the
Given the partners around the table
What works, what could work, to turn these conditions around? What would it
take to have all children zero to age five healthy and ready for school? What
would it take to have all children succeeding in school? The answers are a combination of science and common sense.
Look at the research. The science part is about the research
that has been done over the last 20 plus years on programs that actually make
a difference in the well-being of young children and their families. While
some of this is still controversial, we know that quality child care, regular
health care, family support and parent education all play a key role in the
healthy development of children. The chart displays the references in the Prop
10 legislation to what works. Prop 10 commissions should use these categories
as a starting point for considering what works. There are some references in
the appendices to other what works resources.
Consider what has worked outside the county. There is a growing
body of experience from other counties, states and countries about what works
to improve the well-being of children and families. This is sometimes referred
to as Abest @
or Apromising @
practice. And a number of books, journals and websites provide access to this
experience. Some of these are listed in Appendix A. Localities with successful
efforts are usually willing to host visitors, and this can be a powerful way
to get beneath the surface of advertised claims to what really worked or didn =t
work. Some technical assistance centers (also listed in Appendix A) can help
arrange site visits or Apeer
to peer @
consulting within California and across the country. It goes without saying
that what works in one community may not work in another. So, look for
experience in counties and communities with economic and demographic
characteristics similar to your own.
Consider no-cost and low-cost ideas. No-cost and low-cost ideas
can be among the most powerful parts of your plan. We have a tendency to think
about everything as a money problem. And while money is certainly important,
it is not the only way to turn a curve. There are many ways for partners to
make contributions to this work (e.g. use of volunteers,
advertising by the media, family friendly policies by the business
community, support groups by the faith community, streamlined policy or
procedure by public agencies etc.) that make a crucial contribution at low
cost and without using public funding sources.
When groups are given the challenge to turn a curve (like reading scores or
immunization rates), and are asked to include at least one no-cost or low-cost
idea, it often happens that half to two thirds of the good ideas are no-cost
or low-cost. The simple act of asking for no-cost and low-cost ideas has the
effect of changing peoples= mindsets.
What could work in this county to improve this situation
(including no-cost and low-cost ideas)?
What can you contribute (time, money and expertise). How do I create a
strategy to turn a curve or set of curves? (i.e. actually improve the
measurable well-being of children, adults, families or the community as a
Criteria for selecting what works and crafting them into a strategy
The notion of tables
The kind of process described
above usually ends up with a long laundry list of everything anybody ever
thought was a good idea to do for children and families, completely
undisciplined and completely unaffordable. The trick in this work is not to
create such a laundry list, but a coherent strategy, that we can actually
afford to implement that will actually produce the results we want.
Technique to Assess your
what works ideas against criteria. One way to do this is to
assess the A what
ideas according to established criteria. Four criteria are offered for your
Is the proposal specific about what will be done, when and by whom; or is it a
rhetorical statement of need like Aend
poverty and cure disease.@
Proposals need to take the form of an actionable item which can be funded and
Leverage: How great an impact will this proposal have on the curves we are trying to turn? We are looking for actions which are high leverage, not token efforts.
the proposal consistent with our personal and our community=s
values. There are many proposals which are potentially effective which violate
important principles of equity and fairness. The best approaches must be true
to community values and must take into account differences in cultures and
Reach: Is it
feasible and affordable? Can it be done this year, next year, or 3 to 10
years. This criteria can help space out our efforts over time.
If you run this process as an exercise, here are some methods to consider:
Create a special part of the process (a subcommittee or task force) to look at
< how the system of services is configured,
< the parts of the system that are difficult for families with young children to access or negotiate, and
< how services can be made more accessible to families of different cultures
< the opportunities we have to break down walls between service systems and lessen duplication and bureaucracy.
This group may identify
additional action items which require funding, such as the creation of
a resource and referral network for child care, the placement of new
screening and diagnostic services in family centers, or the addition of
evening and weekend hours for health care or child care services. These can be
added to the what works agenda and ranked against other proposals.
Many of the changes necessary
to improve the service system will involve no-cost and low-cost actions such
as the collocation of existing services, creation of common forms across
systems, shared intake and assessment services, or wrap around funding for
children in out of home care.
The product of this work should
be a visual map of how the service system now looks, and how it should look,
from the consumer s
point of view. This can be used as a tool to move the system to become more
friendly to families with young children.
purpose of this work is not planning. The purpose of this work is doing. There
is a tendency for planners to become so enamored with their planning process
they forget there are other things to do in addition to planning. It is
necessary to do the best planning possible without letting the planning
process itself become the point of the work.
A special note about service system reform. Systems reform has become a code word for making sense out of the highly categorical system of services which have grown up over the past 50 years. We now operate a system where it is entirely possible for the child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health and education systems to all be working with the same family and not even know it. It is very important that we do the work necessary to make these systems work as one. But it is equally important that we keep these reform efforts in perspective. Systems reform of whatever sort is a means to improving results for children and families, it is not an end in itself. Take child welfare for example. We could have the best functioning child welfare system in the world, and rates of child abuse could continue to rise. The child welfare system is like the MASH unit in the Korean war, taking in casualties. Expecting to end child abuse by fixing the child welfare system is like asking the MASH units to end the Korean war.
Front Room - Back Room: One useful and powerful image which can be used to describe the intent of systems reform efforts (as part of larger strategies to improve results) is the idea of front room and back room. (NOTE: Cite first reference to this idea in one of the CSSP or FP papers.) One day we would like to have a service system which has a front room and a back room. In the front room, children and families will get what they need, based on what they need, not this crazy collection of categorical programs we have created. In the back room we'll categorize the hell out of them so we can claim every conceivable dollar to pay for what's in the front room. Right now we have just a back room. And as a consequence the funding system very often drives the service system, when it should be the other way around.
An important implication or corollary of the front-room back room image is that it is not necessary to fix the financing system for services before fixing the service system itself. The accumulation of funding requirments from federal state and local laws is enormously complex, and it is unlikely that there will be any coordinated action any time soon to make sense of it. But the funding system is often used as an excuse for not trying to make sense of the service system. This is just an excuse. If you can figure out what you want the front room to look like, then creative fiscal people and other partners can make it happen.