We have worked in the nonprofit sector for our entire careers. We have been on the front lines, in management and in administration. We have watched the changes in the industry starting with funders saying, “It looks like you are doing great work!” to funders asking, “What are the outcomes your programs are getting and what are the metrics you are using to measure that?” Social services is a different world than it was just 10 years ago.
Like many organizations, the agencies we worked for weren’t always prepared to change along with the industry. As an agency, we knew our work very well. Some were even nationally renowned! But we didn’t have anyone on board who understood how to get our work to the next level. We didn’t know anything about Theory of Change or Logic modeling. we didn’t know how to design an evaluation. We didn’t know how to design a performance management system. And though we were experts in our practices, we were never taught how to teach them, much less how to design an instructional curriculum that would meet the needs of our learners.
So, again, like many organization, we brought in consultants. In fact, we brought in some of the most renowned consultants in the field. We spent a lot of money and a lot of time to get the help of these experts to design our evaluation strategies, our performance management systems and to deliver training to our staff. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. After a couple of years working with experts in each of these fields, we found that the systems we set up, the trainings we delivered … well they didn’t really take. So we would work with another expert. And find the same outcome. So what was wrong? Why wasn’t this working for us? After we spent some time doing the blame game, we had to stop and take stock. There were some things we needed to work on as an agency, certainly, but there was something else. These great plans that the experts made for us just didn’t really fit us. Part of the problem, at least, was that these expert consultants did not know our work. They didn’t understand what our front line dealt with on a daily basis; how our culture as an agency affected how work; how our work was very often dictated by our funding streams. All of these, and all the other nuances of social service agencies, impact the work we do greatly, and any new plan, system or practice brought in must work with these in mind.
This began a process over the last 10 years or so where we decided to learn about all the things that we had hired consultants for. Whether it was to learn about data science and performance management or to learn about instructional design and development, adult learning principles and implementation science.
We started putting these new skills to work in our agencies and something happened. Change. It was slow and certainly still tough, because change is hard! But for the first time we had systems that were derived from our practices rather than imposed on top of them. And that is what made the difference.
This has now become our passion. To help social service agencies doing the hard work of serving their communities, develop systems that work for them, that improve their work flow, that inspire their staff and that help them reach outcomes for the clients they serve.
Who we are
Angela Cooper, Chief Learning & Development Officer
Angela Cooper, LCAT: Angela is a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Trainer, Instructional Designer and Developer. For the last 15+ years, Angela has worked in nonprofit organizations with adolescents and young adults involved with the criminal justice system, the foster care system and with histories of trauma and substance use. Angela has been practicing Motivational Interviewing since 2008 and a MINT member since 2012. She has since trained community based organizations, health, mental health and school personnel, and police and probation officers across New York City and the greater Boston area to use Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, and to be trauma informed in their work with vulnerable populations. She now also works with organizations to implement sustainable and outcome oriented training and professional development systems to support their staff in reaching outcomes for the clients they serve.