Community Impact: The New Standard for Measuring Social Services

Social Solutions Blog

Community Impact: The New Standard for Measuring Social Services

How do you measure the effectiveness of the services your organization provides? As accountability takes on more importance for social service agencies, the standard for measuring what your services have accomplished – and how efficiently they were delivered – is becoming more critical for agencies, regulatory boards, and potential investors.

The required metrics set by federal and state programs provide one set of standards, but more social service agencies are looking to take a “wider” view. Instead, the true measure of effectiveness (and justification for their funding levels) can best be determined by utilizing a more comprehensive perspective.

Hence, the growing adoption of “community impact” as an evaluation metric.

What is Community Impact?

Community impact encompasses a broad scope of offerings – not simply a single service – that must work together to make a positive change in participants’ lives.  The idea is that social needs are not the result of a single condition, but more likely reflect a combination of conditions, each of which should be addressed to bring about a positive, sustainable change.

Community Impact Examples
Consider the issue of improving student outcomes in low-income neighborhoods. Is it a matter of improving teaching and facilities for underachieving students? Or are other factors involved? A hungry child will likely have trouble improving at school.  A child who doesn’t feel safe has more to think about than social studies. Fixing one condition requires taking into account the influence of other conditions.

In the area of workforce development, the goal may be as straight-forward as helping someone become employed. But what factors are involved beyond finding an available job? Does the participant have dependable transportation to the job site? And what about the participant’s financial literacy? A new job could mean the first stable flow of income in years. Does the participant know how to manage money, set up and follow a budget, establish a system for meeting financial obligations in a timely and responsible manner?

The idea behind community impact is to look at participant needs beyond just the services offered by a single program, and integrate services to provide a full spectrum of personal and social solutions. It is a comprehensive approach to social services and how they impact individuals, families, and communities. And it is an approach that demands a more sophisticated method of measuring and monitoring progress.

Measuring Community Impact with Integrated Systems

Providing cross-platform integrated services with genuine community impact often requires a coordinated effort between multiple agencies or multiple service disciplines within a single agency. Any true measurement of the effectiveness of those integrated services likewise demands a measuring system that not only gathers and assimilates data from various sources but also makes corrections automatically to any anomalies in the data.

To measure community impact, a performance management system that does more than log day-to-day interactions between participants and service providers is required. Such a system needs to be:

    cross-platform data integration. That makes it ideal for community impact analysis. ETO allows you to monitor interactions between different types of services and well as make the necessary corrections – automatically – to accommodate duplicated input resulting from multiple services provided by different job counselors.

    As a system, ETO is flexible enough to allow you to meet the needs of your organization as well as the people you serve both today and tomorrow. Participant needs and program requirements are constantly changing. ETO is flexible enough to accommodate those changes, as well as supporting any transitions to take advantage of new funding streams.

    Are you working with a data collection system that has been mandated for your agency (as many are)? The limitations of that system don’t have to compromise your ability to measure community impact. The ETO system can be used as an integration add-on to bring together all the data sources to accurately document your agency’s community impact.

    Social Solutions provides ETO performance management software systems that streamline WIA reporting and allow social services organizations to accurately measure community impact and other performance standards in their workforce development efforts. 

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