Who Are You?

— by Tabitha Beck and Jovita Tolbert —

Community Action was created in 1964 to address the conditions of poverty. And yet, here we are in 2013 heading toward poverty rates upwards of 15%. Have we failed? But wait, you say, is our Network solely responsible for the economic winds that affect poverty levels in America? Regardless of how you respond to that question, it’s time for a little soul searching, folks. Even if you take issue with the expectation that Community Action should be able to wipe out poverty in this country, the question is, what do we do and how are we any different from other social service agencies? At NASCSP, this question keeps us up at night. We’re on a quest for answers.

Luckily, we have a grant from the Office of Community Services (OCS) to delve deeply into this esoteric question and gain some clarity through the help of the broader Community Action Network and experts in the field. Through the Results Oriented Management and Accountability Next Generation COE grant, transformation is taking place. Not only is the Network thoroughly engaged in the discussion, but we are uncovering a real desire in Community Action to carve out a path forward in figuring out what works to end poverty.

You’ll find that the newly released, Third Iteration of the Performance Management for Community Acton White Paper,  highlights the unique qualities of Community Action service delivery and begins to flesh out a clear way forward. It also demonstrates how the success of the Network can be better shared through data and narratives. With input from all of you in the Network and experts in the field of performance management, we’re beginning to hone in on what we do that truly moves the needle on poverty. From there, we expect to have a better handle on who we are and what we’re about.

There are still lots of details to fine tune and decisions to be made about the final format of the next generation of ROMA at the national level, but this paper summarizes where the Network is to date. Expect dialogue to continue through the summer and into September. Join us for listening sessions at the NASCSP Conference and Community Action Partnership Convention.

Interested in getting even more involved? Sign up for a committee or volunteer to do pilot testing.   Pilots will occur from October into January of the new year. A final white paper will be released in February 2014.