This month we caught up with Emily Marshia, Assistant Director at the Orange County Parent Child Center and Benchmarks for a Better Vermont Apprentice. Emily took part in Benchmarks for a Better Vermont’s Performance Institute, where pioneering nonprofits worked collectively, in cohorts and organizational teams to learn, practice, and implement Results-Based Accountability in their organization.
Tell us about the program you worked on in the Performance Institute. Why did you choose it as a focal point for Results-Based Accountability?
Orange County Parent Child Center chose our Families Learning Together (FLT) program as the focal point for our work in the Performance Institute. Every parent child center in Vermont hosts an FLT program. Young parenting, pregnant and at risk individuals complete their education, acquire relevant & desirable employment skills, and enhance life and parenting skills. Participants’ roles in the program are similar to that of a student, an employee, a volunteer, a customer, and a co-worker. The program offers them the unique opportunity of combining all these roles into one onsite experience.
We chose this program because it embodies the work of parent child centers; it builds on existing strengths in multiple generations of a family. We also chose FLT for this work because advocating for it's sustainability is of paramount importance and we needed a stronger voice.
How did RBA change the program?
We found that voice by marrying the powerful success stories of our FLT participants with specific data so that no matter our audience, those two kinds of information could strengthen and deepen each other.
What was the highlight of the Performance Institute or this project for you?
I think many times in our work, we come up against rehearsed mantras that reinforce the barriers we perceive in our work. We become so familiar with what doesn't work and we say it out loud, over and over again, and the barriers become engrained. RBA is great at pulling us out of those trenches, turning those perceptions on their heads, and asking "So what?" It's kind of like having a persistent three year-old by your side asking "Why" again and again. Eventually, when we stop and take the time to bend down and look the youngster in the eyes, we find a different answer than "Just because."
How has your involvement in the Performance Institute contributed to your work?
OCPCC has truly embedded the philosophy of RBA into our daily culture. Very often we begin conversations at staff and board meetings by asking “What do we want and how will we recognize it?” These simple manifestations of our RBA journey now feel like a natural part of who we are, bringing focus to discussions that can sometimes feel unwieldy or obtuse.
We refer to RBA; we think with RBA; we share RBA; therefore RBA strengthens every place we touch. The nice thing about RBA is that is forces individuals and groups to answer tough questions about programs, people, issues, AND EVEN THEMSELVES. RBA feels like a practical application of hope, something which is appealing and inspiring to all of us.
To learn more about the Orange County Parent Child Center, visit www.orangecountypcc.org