A key goal of the SWFI grant is to create systems change in your community so that SWFI’s integrated approach to promoting career pathways for low- and middle-skilled parents will continue after the grant ends. Often sustainability is brought up towards the end of a grant, when grantees are busy trying to wrap up programming. It can be difficult during this busy time to think about sustainability and effecting meaningful systems change, and to engage partners in this effort.
To make sure your grant team has sufficient time to review and update your systems integration approaches and plan for their sustainability, SWFI TA coaches developed three sustainability worksheets and are scheduling conversations with each grant team. Some grantees have started these discussions and others will in the coming months.
The first worksheet, posted to the Community of Practice in February 2018, addressed organizing a sustainability planning team and developing a long-term vision and goals.
The second worksheet, posted in July 2018, discussed data-driven decision-making.
The third worksheet, posted in December 2018, helps grantees strategize for building long-term capacity and long-term systems change.
OAI, Inc. reviewed the first two sustainability worksheets with its TA coach during a meeting dedicated to this topic. The OAI team identified several questions to discuss in more depth during staff meetings. OAI also planned quarterly meetings to discuss sustainability timelines, work plans, and funding, and identified partners with whom they want to discuss sustainability plans. This has led to a more formal sustainability process and OAI has now hired a consultant whose role specifically focuses on supporting sustainability planning.
Total Action for Progress (TAP), located in Roanoke, VA, is beginning a partnership with the United Way called the OnRamp Project. This project will support building governance to integrate services, a dashboard to track services and outcomes, a coordinated referral system, and increased coordination and navigation between services offered by different providers. TAP is also using the partnership with United Way to better meet the needs of SWFI participants. For example, TAP has been advocating to change a bus schedule that currently only runs at the beginning and end of the work day. As a result, participants who work a shift schedule do not have transportation to TAP if they have a mid-day appointment—for this reason TAP is advocating to change the schedule. United Way is using its network to advocate for this change and ensure it becomes a priority. In addition to leveraging their existing partnerships, TAP may also use the sustainability worksheets to begin discussions with local workforce development board directors.
Similarly, Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (ABCD) is using the sustainability worksheets to start conversations with senior staff within their organization. The ABCD team plans to use the worksheets to identify elements of their SWFI program they would like to integrate into other ABCD programs. They also plan to speak with stakeholders from local organizations who may be interested in partnering and use checklists and Google Docs to help gather information and feedback from the stakeholders. In addition, the ABCD team identified other funding steams to continue their work, such as private donations. ABCD plans to update its theory of change and convene local leaders to build relationships and discuss how providers can better coordinate services.
As a CareerSource OneStop, the Alachua Bradford Regional Workforce Board has experience sustaining programs under new grants. One of Alachua’s current SWFI training programs, the Own Your Future Business Bootcamp, was piloted in 2011. For SWFI, Own Your Future was updated to target low- to middle- skilled participants. Alachua also engages in a multi-step sustainability planning process where they talk to local business leaders and partners to brainstorm about which SWFI programs should be continued after the grant ends. The Alachua team will also gather input from case managers as part of this process. Alachua will then present the priorities described by business leaders, partners, and case managers to their finance staff to discuss what is feasible given projected future funding.
In addition to the three SWFI sustainability worksheets linked above, several other resources may be helpful to grantees:
A session during the 2017 SWFI grantee convening provided key elements of sustainability and a process for developing a sustainability plan.
A brief describing SWFI grantees’ promising practices for childcare and other supportive services may help SWFI grantees as they think about leveraging resources to provide and sustain child care.
The Program Sustainability Assessment Tool website provides a step-by-step guide for developing a sustainability plan along with action planning templates.
A sustainability plan developed by the state of Arizona provides a replicable format for organizing and documenting sustainability strategies and describing how each strategy will be continued after the grant ends. This format may be useful for SWFI grantees when sharing strategies with grant staff, partners, and other stakeholders.