When the proposed Organizational Standards for CSBG were released in 2013, Utah’s Community Action network knew that the key to understanding and gaining confidence with the standards was to stay ahead of them. To that end, CAP Utah, the statewide association for Utah’s nine CAAs, began a two-year project to implement organizational standards in Utah that is currently in its final stages. We are proud to report that as we near the finish line of our most intensive and ambitious training and technical assistance project to date, we are not only comfortable with the Organizational Standards, but confident in our network’s ability to meet monitoring requirements in FY16.
CAP Utah’s work on Organizational Standards implementation began in the summer of 2013 with the release of the draft standards by Community Action Partnership. CAP Utah staff worked to ensure that each local CAA had not only received information about the proposed standards, but had the opportunity to provide feedback to The Partnership and OCS regarding the feasibility of adopting the standards given the diversity of our network.
Once Utah’s feedback had been provided – much of which was eventually incorporated into the final set of standards – CAP Utah launched a multi-pronged approach to implementation. In late 2013, CAP Utah began providing trainings to all local CAA staff and boards on the basics of the Organizational Standards, including their history and purpose, key components of their development, and a review of each standard in all nine.
The following summer, staff conducted a self-assessment process among local CAAs using The Partnership’s tools for public and private CAAs. The completed self-assessments were compiled by CAP Utah staff and results were discussed at a day-long retreat for CAA Executive Directors and CSBG Managers. CAP Utah hosted the retreat in partnership with State Community Services Office, the administrative agency for CSBG in Utah. The day’s agenda also included an in-depth review of the standards to determine training and technical assistance needs and a discussion on how Organizational Standards would be worked into the FY15-16 CSBG State Plan. At the time of the initial self-assessment, Utah’s network was estimated to be at an average 85% compliance rate with the Organizational Standards.
CAP Utah then set to work providing individual consultation to local CAAs. Staff set regular meetings schedules with local agencies that were adjusted by need – some agencies requested weekly phone calls to discuss progress and others required only monthly or quarterly meetings with state association staff. Individual consultations enabled CAP Utah to provide intensive support on areas of noncompliance and work with local CAAs to develop action plans and request technical assistance, training, or further research from CAP Utah. Consultations also enabled CAP Utah to facilitate peer sharing across the network. As a result, local CAAs have come to rely upon one another as invaluable sources of information and expertise. Sharing methods, best practices, and lessons learned has become a part of the culture of Utah’s Community Action network.
As peer sharing and support became more prevalent, CAP Utah noted that a central place to store information and resources was increasingly necessary for CAAs working toward compliance. Staff responded to this need by creating an electronic resource library to capture the wealth of information made available by local, state, and national partners. When necessary, CAP Utah staff also created Original Technical Assistance documents to provide comprehensive guidance on particular topics of interest to local CAAs. To date, the Organizational Standards eLibrary has more than 220 documents, on topics ranging from Board Governance to Risk Assessments and everything in between.
CAP Utah’s regular State Association Meetings also helped to facilitate the peer support process and assisted staff in staying current with local CAA progress and needs. State Association meetings, which occur bimonthly, have been used not only as a forum for informal discussions, but also as a means of providing more formal trainings on specific topics central to implementation. They have also served as a useful vehicle for maintaining a network-wide sense of urgency around Organizational Standards compliance.
This March, CAP Utah facilitated a second self-assessment process to gauge the progress of local agencies. The results suggest that implementation efforts in Utah have begun to pay off. In less than one year’s time, the local network’s average compliance rate has increased to 91%. What’s more, each local CAA has an actionable, realistic plan in place to adopt remaining standards and is poised for monitoring in the coming fiscal year.
CAP Utah is pleased to be a part of the nationwide efforts to make Community Action a more effective, accountable service delivery system for our nation’s low-income residents. Most of all, CAP Utah is proud of the nine local agencies in Utah who have taken on the daunting work of implementing Organizational Standards with an energetic, can-do attitude that truly embodies the spirit of Community Action.
By Afton January, Associate Director