The Ada Jenkins Center participated in the 2019 Mission Possible Award program, hoping to transform their goal-setting process.
The Ada Jenkins Center creates lasting solutions for health, education and economic stability. They utilize an integrated approach built on relationships with client-partners (CPs) that are based on choice, strengths, empowerment, and accountability. They participated in the Mission Possible Program because they hoped to transform an inefficient paper-based process.
When an individual or family becomes a CP, they choose to enroll in one of the two pathways. This project focuses on The Investment Pathway, which allows CPs to utilize all Center service areas – Economic Supports, Adult & Child Education, Health (Medical & Dental), and Workforce Development & Housing – with an end goal of economic stability. Through a two-generational lens, Coordinated Services Specialists (CSS) work with CPs in the Investment Pathway to establish and reach goals for their future.
One of the first and most fundamental steps to developing a relationship between a CSS and a CP is creating an individualized goal plan. Ada Jenkins Center’s goal planning process was completed in person at the center. CSS staff wrote all family goals on a piece of paper as they discussed plans and resources with the family. This system required a face-to-face conversation each time the goal plan was updated. As CPs moved toward their goals, their schedules did not always allow in-person meetings, delaying updates of plans and hindering CPs’ ability to truly own their progress.
As the winners of the 2019 Mission Possible Award, Ada Jenkins Center embarked on their transformation process with Apparo and Accenture.
To give CPs more ownership of updating their goal plans, Ada Jenkins Center wanted to move away from a paper-driven process and subscribe to an online software. This software would be one that CPs could access from their own phone or computer at any time, allowing them to communicate goal progress and share information with their CSS and other Ada Jenkins staff in real time. In addition to providing an elevated sense of ownership and control over their goal plan, this online portal would allow Ada Jenkins Center to fulfill one of their main principles – empowering a person’s own abilities and strengths.
As the winner of the 2019 Mission Possible Award, Ada Jenkins Center won up to $50,000 worth of pro bono Accenture consulting support and $10,000 towards implementing their technology solution.
Ada Jenkins Center staff and client-partners are already realizing the project impact.
Diane Means, Director of Impact and Engagement, and Janice Hinton, Director of Workforce Development and Housing, filled us in on the impact already being felt. They shared what they anticipate to come with their chosen solution – an upgrade to Apricot Connect – which was delivered and paid for (first 3 years) by their work with Apparo and Accenture.
The upgraded system enriches client experience, which is anticipated to increase graduation rates, freeing space to reach even more clients.
- 24/7 online access allows CPs to take ownership of their goals and plans. As Diane explains, “If people feel greater ownership of their goals, we believe we’ll move the needle faster for families and that will build capacity for us.” Janice adds, “Our families are really liking the new system and being able to stay connected virtually. This came at a really good time, given the pandemic.”
- Online access to all client information enables staff to serve each client more holistically, across service needs and with partner agency collaboration
- Operational efficiencies free 30+ hours of time for staff to spend with CPs. As Diane explains, “The previous paper and Excel-based eligibility and intake process took staff an hour each for every new CP. Now, we can save an hour and a half of that time and hope to adjust some positions to help free up the burden on staff who are managing more CPs than is ideal. The time freed can be used to help deepen relationships and advocate as the voice of the community.”
Access to data helps optimize fundraising and service enhancements internally and community-wide.
- “Access to complete information allows us to better tell our story using data,” shares Diane. “It is especially important right now to share stories of journeys to security and mobility along the spectrum.”
- Improved ability to collaborate and communicate with partner agencies in real time is impressive to many funders.
- Data is easily pulled to report back to funders, thus demonstrating a pre-qualification of meeting requirements, as well as strengthening relationships.
- Report analysis allows staff to assess effectiveness of services, learn why some families are more successful than others, and measure sustainability. This allows them to make adjustments based on findings. “It will help us identify our weak spots and the types of goals that our families continue to struggle with. We’ll learn what we need to address differently and whether we are the right provider for certain needs. It will help us see where we can strengthen ourselves and where we can work better across the community,” Diane explains.
- These learning can be shared broadly, with community-wide implications. “These learnings not only support our CPs, but can also be shared on a community wide basis to help bolster others’ programs,” Diane explains. “We really believe that when all of this is fully implemented and we are able to see data regarding goal achievement, it will help a lot of people in our community understand what’s really moving the needle on economic stability and mobility. It has large internal and external implications.”
Online system eliminates risks associated with paper record keeping.
- Files cannot get lost or damaged.
- Apricot meets all HIPAA requirements.
The upgrade creates additional enhancements beyond initial expectations.
As Janice shares, “It started with a focus on goals and tasks and it turned into so much more as our online system.”
- The system enables Ada Jenkins to deliver COVID-19 relief funds twice as fast as they would have been able to. “We were able to respond to the pandemic very quickly and can get funds to our clients in 3-4 days,” Diane shares. “Before, it would have been at least a week, if not more, and it would have been much more of an administrative burden.” Janice adds, “I don’t know how we would have done it without the advanced features of Apricot. It would have really slowed us down. People are really hurting. I’ve heard people cry on the phone with relief when I tell them that their check is on the way. It’s hard to overstate how serious this is for some people in our community.”
- Online access to doctors’ notes/prescriptions and clients’ ability to email questions will enhance the medical experience.
- Improved access to tech support and trainings is included in the new system. As Diane explains, “Before, we had to submit an email request for any support needed and they were only able to give us a small amount of information. Our new rep is able to actually go into the system and fix errors, create forms, and help us build our own process.”
One year after this project concluded, we checked back in with Ada Jenkins leadership to learned about the impact.
We met again with Janice Hinton and Diane Means to learn about their first year with the updated Apricot platform. They shared highlights of the benefits they have achieved.
Improved effectiveness of service to those in need, through:
New goal form – Janice shares, “We created a new goal form for our clients that can be printed out or emailed, eliminating the need for us to handwrite.” Diane adds, “This new form will help people rebound from the negative impacts that COVID has had, like job loss. Having your goals in front of you makes it tangible, easier for you and for our staff to identify when you are moving towards success.”
Automated communications related to funds status – Diane shares, “The peace of mind for a client who cannot pay their rent or other bills is huge. Our staff members needed the support as they tried to keep up with new needs and keep others updated. It was so timely and so needed.”
Increased reach and ability to manage $750,000 in CARES funding through new intake form
“Using the online intake form, we were able to serve more people and meet the growing demands of our community caused by the pandemic. We didn’t have to take the time to deal with paper and then reenter all of the information into our system. Also, the status update communications were automated, so we did not have to spend time sending those out individually. We used this process to distribute the $750,000 of CARES funds that were given to us,” explains Janice.
Diane adds, “It was such a year of upheaval. 65% of our clients lost their jobs because remote work was not an option for them. Apricot enabled us to help our clients and the community as a whole, those who could not work, were laid off, or trying to balance work with new childcare demands. There were weekly reporting requirements to the entities funding us. Without Apricot, I don’t know how we would have done it. It was very timely.”
Improved success in fundraising, including securing of critical pandemic-related funds
Diane explains, “At any moment I could generate a report and get the data we needed to explain specifically how used donations to support people in need. Having access to these details in real-time helped us to be transparent and showed that we can effectively manage through a crisis. This helped all of our fundraising efforts, crisis and non-crisis grants and individual donations. One foundation funder came to us unsolicited to offer us more funds.”