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Systems change evaluation for
The Women’s Fund of Omaha:

The Adolescent Health Project

What is the strategy for understanding how youth perceive sexual and reproductive health? Hire a team of youth researchers to investigate, of course.

Our clients wanted to change the sexual & reproductive health system in Nebraska by improving the quantity and quality of services, and by creating behavior change through outreach and education. The development of a paid YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research) team of 15-19-year-old researchers ensured that the project would be situated in the youth perspective. These youth designed research questions, collected and analyzed the data, and reported back what they learned to grantee service providers and project leadership.

In an effort to continually embed the youth voice into evaluation, YPAR was invited to present their results at quarterly meetings known as the Learning Collaborative. We facilitated these meetings to better coordinate the simultaneous strategies that systems change requires, and to foster collaboration between grantee service providers. Providing the space for open discussion, generating trust, and developing relationships were all important aspects to improving this system. 

To ensure that service providers really were improving the quality of their services, we had the Learning Collaborative develop and implement guiding principles and measure them. The YPAR team also measured these principles from the youth perspective so results could be compared—did the experience of youth “mystery shoppers” accessing these services match up with the grantees’ perceptions of service delivery? This strategy gave service providers real information to use when making decisions about how to improve.

Now in its fifth year, the AHP has exceeded its goals for increasing the number of service providers available to the public, and increased rates for STD testing. It has connected more frequently with targeted populations and improved access to services for those populations.

The Community of Practice for Homelessness Initiative

Homelessness service providers better support the homeless community by developing a community of their own.

Homelessness is a pervasive issue. In Omaha and Council Bluffs, we work with a group of 20 homelessness service providers who have come together to solve this issue together. Collaboration isn’t easy, especially in the nonprofit world where funding, staff, and time are scarce. With our help and the help of our partners at EducationNorthwest, these service providers created a community of practice—a group that meets monthly to discuss how to improve what they do. Based on their needs and desires, we have facilitated meetings to explore best practices, make collective decisions, and openly discuss challenges. In 2018, despite many of these organizations not having any relationship before, the community of practice developed their own collective guiding principles. These principles will serve as the basis for evaluating service delivery in 2019, when training in trauma-informed practice (their chosen best practice) begins.

Along the way, a desire to tell a joint story about homelessness emerged from the community of practice. To make this a reality, we are creating an interactive map and dashboard that provides information about the issue, as well as the continuum of care of service providers and partners that work towards solving it.

Program evaluation for

Project Self-Sufficiency

In improving their program for low-income single-parent families in Larimer County, our client got more than they bargained for.

In moving towards the goal of helping families in need become self-sufficient, Project Self-sufficiency advisors help parents navigate through an impressive array of support services: finances, education, employment, child care, transportation, housing. Through interviews with program participants, we helped our client learn that the “informal” support that program staff offer—the personal connection, listening, and building confidence—was just as important as the tangible benefits. This helped stakeholders understand the impact of their program outside the traditional focus on formal outcomes.

Program evaluation for

WorkLife Partnership

How do you dial in the fidelity of your program? You deeply engage stakeholders in conversation.

The mission of WorkLife’s Upskill program is to help working parents reach their career goals through professional development and improve their financial stability. We interviewed program participants to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement in their coaching and training model, tracking the impact of the program on whole families through the use of a 2GEN approach (described here). We also conducted interviews with Upskill’s referral partners to assess the effectiveness of the referral process and understand Upskill’s role as a community partner in serving Colorado families in need. Knowledge gained from this evaluation will enable them to better identify appropriate participants for the program, improve success rates, and make adjustments to their business model with a focus on sustainability.


Situation Analysis and ongoing evaluation for Heartland Family Service:

The Navigating to Home Project

A clear pathway to housing the homeless is emerging from an ongoing learning process of improving coordination across homeless services.

Homelessness is a complex issue that crosscuts many levels of service delivery, as homeless populations have extremely diverse needs. Steering through these services can be complicated and confusing, especially when navigating them across a large metropolitan area like Omaha/Council Bluffs. The Navigating to Home project creates pathways to housing for clients using 4 program strategies: rapid rehousing, navigation, street outreach, and diversion. To make sure intervention strategies addressed actual gaps in homelessness service delivery, first we helped HFS get a clearer picture of homelessness through a mixed-methods situation analysis. We provide ongoing data collection and analysis to test these interventions as they are implemented and assess how they are changing homeless service delivery. HFS uses this data to make informed decisions as information emerges and to develop stronger partnerships.

LGBTQIA+ Strengths and Needs Assessment

Setting funding priorities by asking the community what they need.

At Smith & Lehmann Consulting, we believe individuals and communities are the experts in their own lives. To help our clients improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) community members across the Omaha-metro area through future grant funding, we partnered with The Improve Group to gather direct input from community members. In this strengths and needs assessment (SNA), members of the LGBTQIA+ community shared their input on strengths to amplify, needs to address, and sub-populations (e.g. people of color, youth, etc.)  to focus future funding on. Community members shaped funding recommendations by mapping out parts of town, including businesses and organizations, they feel safe and celebrated, completing surveys, participating in community-led circle discussions in LGBTQIA+ champions’ homes. By grounding the entire process in the information shared by community members through multiple methods, we provided our client with clear, actionable parameters for funding priorities that came directly from the community itself.