Rethinking, Reorganizing, Rewarding: A Transformative Plan for Enrichment Services ProgramAnita James | May 2014
The decision to restructure in processes and approach isn't one to make lightly; that's why GCN member Enrichment Services Program made it a deliberate, all-inclusive process based in solid data and effective tactics. With a fifty-year history of identifying the barriers that prevent people from fulfilling their potential, ESP went to work identifying its own, and implementing ways to better carry out its mission.
More than a year ago, Enrichment Services Program (ESP) made the decision to restructure their processes and their approach to service delivery in order to better serve their customers. A Columbus-based community action agency dedicated to eliminating poverty in the Chattahoochee Valley region, ESP addresses systemic poverty issues through several initiatives: education, employment training, energy assistance, emergency food and shelter, and family-strengthening services.
With a fifty-year history of identifying the barriers that prevent people from fulfilling their potential, and helping them break through those barriers, ESP went to work identifying its own, and implementing ways to better carry out its mission. According to CEO Belva Dorsey, the process has been long , but the results—better service quality, higher customer satisfaction, and a more efficient, engaged, and communicative organization—have been well worth it.
Planning a transformation
If serving 6,500 customers per year wasn’t hard enough, Enrichment Services Program initiated, in 2013, an extensive organizational transformation: implementing a new service delivery approach, creating cross-functional teams to work on projects affecting the organization as a whole, and increasing board engagement through new, evidence-based tactics.
Along with a vision for the organization, CEO Belva Dorsey said, “we wanted to have a clear vision of our desired future for individuals and our desired future for the communities that we serve.”
The process began with data: community assessments and internal assessments, covering leadership and personnel (including self-assessments), organizational strengths and weakness, future goals and direction, and strategic steps needed to achieve specific outcomes. The assessment stage involved the board of directors, senior leadership team, staff, and partner organizations, resulting in five vision statements focused on different audiences. Along with a vision for the organization, Dorsey said, “we wanted to have a clear vision of our desired future for individuals, and our desired future for the communities that we serve.”
New approach, new systems
Imperative to Enrichment Services Program’s plan was integrating their Department of Early Childhood and Family Services with their Community Services Department.
“For so many years, we were operating in silos,” said Dorsey. To break out of these silos, ESP consolidated its customer information into one integrated database, allowing them to capture information on families in a “common intake platform”—that is, a one-time registration process for the full suite of ESP’s programs, and a one-stop location for housing their data. Not only did the new system use fewer resources, it created a better way to keep track of their customers throughout the organization: “Now, we are looking at all our customers as Enrichment Services customers, instead of departmental customers.”
Integration also creates a better service experience for customers: no longer must families answer the same questions three or four times for different departments. The “Circle of Care” approach means caseworkers from each department work together, reducing duplication of services and allowing ESP to move families toward self-efficiency more quickly. “We created ‘Circle of Care’ for the families,” said Dorsey, “to have greater focus on helping the family achieve their outcome, and to have a greater impact.”
“We created ‘Circle of Care’ for the families,” said Dorsey, “to have greater focus on helping the family achieve their outcome, and to have a greater impact.”
Another big shift is ESP’s “shared leadership” approach. Instead of saddling the senior leadership team and board members with all the decisions, ESP is utilizing cross-functional teams to create recommendations on organizational effectiveness: “The cross-functional teams allows us to bring representatives from several different areas, departments, and positions to the table to share recommendations based on their unique point of reference,” said Dorsey.
This approach moves away from the traditional corporate structure, in which decisions come from the top only. What they found out, said Dorsey, is that when the cross-functional team weighs in with a recommendation, “on [any] decision, it is more than likely to be accepted by everybody else—because you had input from all the different levels.” The shared leadership approach increases buy-in from staff as well, who feel heard, rewarded, and fully prepared to provide the best experience for ESP customers.
The better board challenge
Everyone wants to increase board engagement, but finding a way to act on that desire can be difficult. Enrichment Services Program managed to produce major benefits from some simple tactics:
Reducing the number of committees to prevent board members from being spread too thin. To make this work, ESP rolled the vital functions of cut committees into others: “Instead of having a governance committee and a personnel committee, now the governance committee will also look at our HR functions,” said Dorsey.
Evaluating board members’ interests and strengths, then making committee assignments that align with them.
Taking advantage of technology to accommodate board members’ demanding schedules. Giving them the opportunity to participate via conference call or Skype increased both attendance and engagement.
Sharing customer stories. Dorsey recently introduced a “Mission Moment” to every board meeting, in which they share the story of an ESP success: “Any time board members or staff have a chance to see the difference we’re making in [people’s] lives, they’re a little more motivated and excited.” They also come away with evidence of ESP’s impact to share with others.
Training. ESP offers their board members the opportunity to participate in board skills training at the state and national level, building the capacity of the organization while creating a mutual sense of investment.
Dorsey reports that changes one year in, though big, reflect just a part of the plan: “When you look at transforming a culture, it may take three or more years to change. So we have to remind ourselves that it is a process.” That reminder works because, as long and tough as that process may be, everyone at ESP knows it will continue to make them a better and more resilient resource for thousands of Georgians.
For more information on Enrichment Services Program’s work and impact, visit their website.
Anita James is the Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.