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As part of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, our staff are also on the faculty and instruction team at the school. This creates a fertile ground for students to engage in the work we do, and for us to tap into the new ways of thinking our graduate students bring to their projects. Courses such as PA5311 Program Evaluation have lended some extra evaluation capacity to our partners in the human services sector.
These are selections from projects in the past semesters:
Ramsey County Workforce Solutions
While the federal and state governments mandate collection of data on program implementation of social welfare programs, it is often difficult for local governments to assure that this information is useful to the local service providers with whom they work. This project designed a plan for assessing ways that data is communicated between the county and their nonprofit partners, to point to avenues for improvement.
Pope County Human Services
The Director of this rural county was interested in improving the alignment of her organization’s practices with the concepts of person-centered thinking and the state’s human services performance measures. She commissioned the graduate student team to develop staff performance appraisals, guides for supervisors, and a questionnaire to gather information about how these programmatic and management tools were affecting daily practice.
Dakota County Mental Health
While there are a number of evidence-based training models in mental health, local governments might not have the information they need to assess whether or not they are having the desired impact on professionals receiving them. This project designed a comprehensive way of assessing the change in knowledge about risk factors and assessment, and confidence of practitioners in responding to a mental health crisis.
Big Brothers/ Big Sisters
This evaluation design supported the organization’s strategic planning process to provide tools for assessing the short-term outcomes experienced by both mentors (‘Bigs”) and mentees (“Littles”). Using two surveys and providing a structured way to access administrative data from the schools, this project helps to inform the organization about its results.
Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency: YouthBuild Program
Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and Community Action Program for northeast Minnesota that oversees the YouthBuild program. YouthBuild provides at-risk youth paid work experience in construction while helping them earn a high school diploma or GED. YouthBuild program staff expressed interest in increasing their understanding of participants’ needs, understanding how the program meets those needs, and developing tools that would allow them to continually assess and improve their program. Under the guidance of FSI staff, students from the PA5311 course adopted a formative evaluation design to provide AEOA with a tool to continually assess and improve the YouthBuild program.
Youth Mental Health Wraparound Services in Sherburne County
The county received a three year grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services and wanted to build in a robust program evaluation approach. The Humphrey School graduate team developed a comprehensive yet practical plan, which focused on documenting what services are provided in the short term and the results for youth, families and the county in the longer term. Surveys, time tracking tools, and use of a standardized instrument (Child & Adolescent Services Intensity) were developed to be used by the nonprofit wrap-around coordinator and the county. This investment of time will complement the state’s evaluation of the initiative (being conducted by the Wilder Research Center) and allow the county and its partner document their own learning for continuous program improvement.
South Center Community Based Initiative
Ten Minnesota counties in south central part of the state collaborate to implement mental health services to its residents. To help assure people with serious and persistent mental illness can access community-based services and other support, such as clubhouses, case management, and psychiatry. The Humphrey school team focused their evaluation upon creating a survey that helped to describe clients’ quality of life, as well as interview questions that provide a more nuanced view of their experiences.
Comprehensive Re-entry Program for People in the Corrections System
The six counties in Region V+ received a grant to try and develop a continuum of services for those struggling with mental illness and chemical dependency in the correctional system, including people who are diverted, incarcerated or discharged. Launched in Crow Wing county, the effort seeks to improve the timely identification of needs, streamline access to services and improve coordination, communication and responsibility between law enforcement, human services and the county jail. The Humphrey School graduate student team built surveys to use with those detained (both before and after), tools for helping project partners take stock of implementation and make adjustments, and a data dashboard to analyze administrative data.
The Village Family Service Center’s Truancy Intervention Program
Clay County and the Village partner in implementing a truancy program in county’s four school districts. Started more than twenty years ago, the program provides early intervention to young people who are not attending school to avoid court processes. The process evaluation seeks to document what is being implemented and whether or not those practices activate a network of support focused on reducing student truancy. The Humphrey School team relied upon administrative data from the schools, surveys and interviews to help managers understand the program ‘on the ground.’
Have an evaluation project you want to pitch to our student teams?
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