YMCA Childcare Resource Service exists to make a lasting, positive impact on San Diego families. It is not a responsibility we take lightly, and we are on an ongoing quest to improve our work using innovation and evidence-driven decision-making. Our approach is rooted in Continuous Quality Improvement: a cycle of collecting and analyzing data and information, assessing performance, implementing improvement plans, re-evaluating results, and making changes based on our learnings.
HOW IT WORKS
Continuous Quality Improvement allows us to measure our impact, strengthen our position as a learning organization, and enable evidence-informed decision making. We use an empowerment evaluation approach to help staff engage in and lead CQI efforts using the Plan, Do, Study, Act model. Staff begin the Plan stage by designing evidence-informed programs or practices. As they implement their strategies (the Do stage), they collect data that will help them in the Study Phase, where they measure their outcomes and use their data to make decisions and adjust their practices based on their findings (the Act Phase). This cycle continues with staff engaging with evidence along the way.
Continuous Quality Improvement is essential for sustainability – the ability to maintain essential services and program benefits over time. We approach sustainability holistically and not just fiscally using four domains: Leadership & Community, Program, Organizational Capacity, and Fiscal. CQI is a vehicle to help organizations remain sustainable.
BUILDING STAFF CAPACITY
Empowerment evaluation allows staff to have support and resources to their own CQI activities. A dedicated research and evaluation department creates opportunities for staff to learn about CQI through workshops, trainings, and consultations, see CQI in action by promoting collaborative cross-program support, practice what they learn, and then apply their learnings and knowledge to their own programs and services. Using this strategy, staff build their capacity and a culture of CQI is reinforced.
INCORPORATING PARTICIPANT VOICE
We value the experiences of our families and incorporate their feedback into operations as much as possible. We invite our program participants to serve on program advisory boards and administer feedback and satisfaction surveys regularly to guide program design. We also embrace opportunities for employees with lived experience to work as program staff. By providing services and guiding our agency’s work from the perspective of a peer, these employees add a unique layer that ensures the best interests of our families remain the focus of our work.
Our agency has been partnering with San Diego youth and families since 1980, and has seen firsthand how strategic investments can change a family’s trajectory from one of vulnerability, to one of long-term stability. As a result of that process, we’ve done the following:
- Modified our workforce development and relational wellness programming to better meet the needs of participants
- Modernized all housing programs and services to align with evidence and best practices
- Adjusted prevention and diversion programming for youth experiencing housing instability based on the newest evidence in the field
- Shared our findings from Transitional Housing & Youth Development and Family Support & Preservation services at several national conferences and learning circles
The following pieces inspire our commitment to data-driven and evidence-informed decision-making:
- American Evaluators Association
- Administration for Children & Families, Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation
- Child Trends
- Chapin Hall, Voices of Youth Count
- Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child
We are honored to work with the following partners in evaluating and improving our work:
- Harder+Company Community Research
- San Diego State University, Department of Child & Family Development
- Measurement Resources