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Face Book Live 1.9.2019

Posted by Dave Griffith on January 6, 2019 at 8:10 PM

On 1/7/19 I will be participating in a Face Book Live event in my role as Head Coach at Episcopal Community Services. Our chief of programs, Arley Styer, and I will be fielding a number of questions about our agency and our work and some of the challenges our participants face. I thought I would share some of the questions and our responses. The FB Live will be posted, but in case you miss here are some of the points we will be covering.

1. Why do we need to innovate in this sector?

Poverty in 1960 in America was 15%. In 2019 it remains 15% with an income level of approximately $22,900, unadjusted for inflation since the early 1970’s, with safety net programs available at higher income levels. However, for every dollar of additional income, benefits are reduced a dollar fifty, with some programs phasing out abruptly, or cliffing. The social service sector while providing essential services has done little to lower the level pf poverty in America. In the Philadelphia Region where we work the poverty level in the 26-27% level, the highest of any major city. Innovation is necessary as clearly programs at scale have not moved the needle on poverty. As an agency we have made a commitment and investment to innovate and find programs that give our participants the opportunity to move out of poverty and stay there. Our ambition is to create scalable programs and partnerships to drive this innovation. 

2. What do you mean when you say ECS is moving into the” change business”?

One could look at the many of the programs in social services and government that serve individuals living in poverty and make the argument that they are more about maintaining individuals, rather than driving change in individuals economic levels. We provide maintenance programs that provide stability and prevention as do many well run agencies. However, poverty remains the dominant domestic long term challenge costing some $60,000 per individual per year according to Pew studies. In addition, no one living in poverty wants to be in poverty. In fact, individual living with poverty are some of the most resilient people I know. At ECS our focus is to create programs that drive economic change in individuals lives.

The longterm sustainable way out of poverty is a job at or above a livingwage with benefits and a career path. Simply put that is the change w ewant for our participants. 

As a result of our strategic plan where we identified intergenerational poverty as our focus, we have identified brain science based approaches that supports individuals in poverty to lift themselves out of poverty. This approach is currently in use in some 80 other agencies around the country and has been shown to have significant results. We are the only agency in Philadelphia using this approach, however another change we hope to drive is to share our learnings and experiences and partner with other like-minded agencies. Maintenance has it place in our work, but long term we want to be in the change business.

3. You also refer to yourself as “head coach.” What is that in reference to?

The brain based science that shapes our programs, is based on a coaching model with financial incentives. Traditional case management often takes the form of telling a participant what to do or how to do an activity. Fill out this form, go to this agency, etc. To use the parable giving people a fish. Coaching is about teaching people how to fish. Our MindSet program uses coaches to help people asses where they are and what goals they have to change their status. By coaching, setting goals, and providing financial rewards when goals are achieved, we teach people to fish. My job is to hire and develop talent that is outstanding at this work and provide the best environment so they can do their best work. My title of Head Coach it is to remind my staff that we are all about coaching, not just our participants, but each other. It also give me an opportunity to explain to stakeholders our focus as an agency.

4. Okay, last Dave-ism—what do you mean when you say we are working against the SPPs?

SPP is an acronym for “Stupid Public Policy”. Another part of our strategic plan is the creation of an advocacy effort in partnership with our stakeholders. The focus of our advocacy is to advocate for changes to public policy and regulations that are not in the best interests of our participants and in turn our Region. Many programs have not adapted with the times and changes to them can and will drive significant impact at scale.


5. Internally we’ve been talking the three-legged stool of our programs: Stability, Prevention, and transformation. What do these mean to you? Do you think we need all of them?

The answer is Yes on thinking about all three. If you put these terms in the context of maintenance vs change it really frames out work. Remember we have been at it for almost 150 years and many of our programs are well established and well regarded. I think of our shelter and housing programs as providing stability for some of our most vulnerable participants. I think of our Out of School Programs as prevention in that they provide significant future opportunity for the student in our program as well as affordable childcare for working parents. Mindset is about driving economic transformation in individual lives. We also provide significant volunteer opportunities with our visitation and meal and gift delivery programs through CORP, Dolphins and various parish supported programs. I also know our coaching model is improving the quality of our work in all of our programs and not just MindSet. Over time I would like the mix to shift more to transformational impact and I think as we partner with other agencies we can shift our mix to do so. 

For additional information on our work go to www.ecsphilly.org and our Facebook page is

@ECSPhilly. You can also reach me directly at griffithd@ecsphilly.org.


Categories: ECS Outreach, Muddy Boots, Griffith Thoughts

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