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Pillar 5: Carrots & Sticks – How to Create a Culture that Values Learning

This is webinar #5 in a series of 7.

Missing 18 days of the school year – the definition of chronic absenteeism in the District of Columbia – can lead students in the early grades to fall behind, fail courses, and eventually drop out of high school. The reality that 63% of prekindergarten and 30% of K-5 students were chronically absent led the DC Promise Neighborhood to focus on increasing school attendance. Two years later, the chronic absenteeism in preschoolers had decreased by 21 percentage points and the K-5 students by 10 percentage points. How?

Kevin Jones and Nicholas Carrington credit a learning culture, where data is used for continual learning on an everyday basis, along with six other pillars of high performance. The DC Promise Neighborhood worked with partners to identify students at risk of absenteeism, monitor their attendance, and – at the first sign of trouble – provide incentives, parent contacts, and additional services to get students back on track.

Kevin and Nicholas will use this example to illustrate what a culture that values learning looks like. Learn how to create a culture where:

  • People at all levels of the organizations have high expectations of themselves and continually seek to do even better for their clients
  • The organization seeks out opportunities to benchmark themselves against, and learn from, organizations at the top of their field
  • Curiosity is encouraged, and staff feel safe acknowledging problems and using them as opportunities to improve
  • Even the busiest leaders and managers take time to step back, take stock, and reflect

“A culture that values learning” is the fifth pillar of the Performance Imperative. Join us to hear what a learning culture looks like at the DC Promise Neighborhood, and how you can apply their lessons to your organization.

The webinars in this series can be watched sequentially or independently. Each will be recorded, and the entire series will be available on Social Solutions’ website.

About this Webinar Series

The most successful organizations – those that produce positive client outcomes with consistency – cultivate seven core disciplines. This webinar is the fifth in a series dedicated to exploring what each of the seven pillars of the Performance Imperative look like in practice.

The Performance Imperative was created by the Leap Ambassadors’ Community, a group of social sector leaders who have joined forces to inspire great organizations for greater societal impact. At Social Solutions, we are proud to provide software which supports high performance and to be part of the movement along with so many of our customers.



Kevin Jones is the Chief of Programs at the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. He is responsible for identifying strategic opportunities for program fidelity, expansion, reach and engagement; and facilitating performance management to guide program efficiency, effectiveness and strategic collaborations. He brings 15 years of experience in assisting neighborhood residents, students, nonprofit organizations and government stakeholders in developing and delivering community-based programs and strategies, and using data to strengthen these efforts. Kevin has a Master’s of Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a Master’s of Public Health from the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.


Nicholas Carrington is the Director of Data and Evaluation for the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. He leads efforts to develop systems that foster continuous quality improvement and accountability. He oversees data collection, monitoring, analysis and reporting for more than 15 community-based partners and several internal programs, while supporting strategic initiatives with data-based insights. Nicholas has experience as an evaluator and performance management consultant. Prior to joining DCPNI, he was a senior analyst at Child Trends. Nicholas has a Master’s of Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a concentration in child and adolescent health and development.



Diana Parks is the Policy Analyst at Social Solutions. She conducts research on public policy and nonprofit and public sector market needs to inform product development. She also works closely with ETO and Apricot customers to highlight their successes. Prior to joining Social Solutions, Diana worked for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety, ensuring equal access to services for all inmates and patrons regardless of primary language spoken.


In high-performance organizations:

  • The board, management, and staff understand the organization’s mission and desired results and review them periodically to ensure that they are still relevant.
  • The board, management, and staff continually seek to do even better for the people or causes they serve.
  • People in all parts of the organization have high expectations of themselves and of their peers.
  • The board, management, and staff take on the challenge of collecting and using information, not because it’s a good marketing tool, and not because a funder said they have to. They believe it is integral to ensuring material, measurable, and sustainable good for the people or causes they serve.
  • The board, management, and staff look for opportunities to benchmark themselves against, and learn from, peer organizations that are at the top of their field

  • Senior management leads by example and encourages people throughout the organization to be curious, ask questions, and push each other’s thinking by being appropriately and respectfully challenging. High- performance cultures are innovative cultures, mindful that every program and process eventually becomes dated, even obsolete.
  • Senior management creates the conditions for staff members to feel safe acknowledging when there are problems. They use what others might deem “failures” as an opportunity for learning.
  • Even the busiest leaders, managers, and staff members carve out some time to step back, take stock, and reflect.

Download Performance Imperative PDF Visit Website
Excerpt from page 11 of the Performance Imperative PDF.