The Gifford Foundation has announced the newest cohort for ADVANS (Advancing and Developing the Assets and Value of Nonprofits in Syracuse), a major capacity building initiative started by the Foundation in 2007. Cynthia O’Connor was asked back as one of ADVANS select consultants to lead AccesCNY through this two-year process. It starts with an extensive self-assessment and is followed by the implementation of a work plan to strengthen all facets of their organizational capacity. AccesCNY was founded in 2015 as the result of the merger of Enable and Transitional Living Services (TLS). They offer person-centered services that empower individuals of all ages and abilities to reach their full potential as part of our shared community. This is Cynthia’s third ADVANS cycle and she noted “I am excited to get started with this new ADVANS cohort – – – and am honored to be a part of this important work building strong non-profits that are so vital for life in Central New York .”
. . . is how a staff member of the Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA) described A&O Senior Associate Vicki Quigley. Another NEHDA director noted: We couldn’t be happier with the work we accomplished with Apter & O’Connor. Vicki was more than a consultant, she was a project team member and went far and above what we expected. Vicki recently NEHDA through a strategic planning process resulting in a new Community Engagement Coordinator staff position shared with the Syracuse Northeast Community Center (SNCC). The project deliverables included a job description for the shared position, a memorandum of understanding to codify the shared employee’s work schedule and compensation, and a Process Manual that enables other organizations to replicate the process for developing a shared staff position.
Ann Sutherland recently completed a process evaluation work for The Health Foundation of Western and Central New York. A &O was commissioned by the Foundation to document the emerging design, implementation and early successes of The Springville Concord Elder Network (SCENe). Th evaluation was designed to highlight lessons learned for sustainability as well as replication in other rural communities with limited senior services and activities. SCENe began as a grassroots initiative with a mission to help people “age with dignity and independence in their own community”. Ann worked with the Network stakeholders for two years. The evaluation found that SCENe developed a highly regarded program that has brought significant benefits to the area’s senior population, exceeding original expectations. Its members are passionate about the new Springville-Concord Senior Center, SCENe staff, and the difference the program has made in their lives. Upon reading Ann’s completed evaluation report the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer commented, “Thank you for sharing this very thorough evaluation report. This was a great history lesson for me. I will use this over and over to help me understand where SCENe was, where it is now and where it may be in the future.”
Impact & Excellence: Data-Driven Strategies for Aligning Mission, Culture and Performance in Nonprofit and Government Organizations by Sheri Chaney Jones. Impact & Excellence is the “culmination of a four year research study into successful data-driven strategies for today’s non-profit and government organizations. Each chapter includes discussion questions and action items to help leaders implement key concepts in their own organizations.” It is a fabulous resource for any organization or nonprofit looking to strengthen its internal evaluation capacity!
Unity House of Cayuga County has engaged A&O to provide technical guidance to move forward with Priority Area 2 of their Strategic Plan 2016-2018: “Unity House will have a robust performance management infrastructure to support high quality programming and sound financial health (data-driven decision making).” This effort builds upon previous work by Cynthia O’Connor and Corinne Ribble who facilitated the strategic planning process in 2016 with the members of the management team and Board of Directors. The planning process emphasized integrated board – staff expertise and ownership of the 2016-2018 Strategic Plan through an ad hoc Planning Team, workgroups, surveys to Board and Management staff and a retreat for the Board of Directors and Agency Directors and Management staff. With A&O training and technical assitance, Unity House is now working to develop a systematic approach to identify outcome measure, collect data, analyze results and then adjust interventions and programs accordingly.
Again I want to thank you for everything. I was so impressed by your ability to take information from our industry, digest it and feed it back in an organized way. You were attentive and did not miss anything from what we said, to how we engaged. I feel that you helped to push the agency and staff to a new level in terms of strategic planning and program evaluation. I completely enjoyed my experience with you. Thank you!
– Feedback from a Unity House Director
RECOGNITION AND NEW CREDENTIALS FOR A&O TEAM
Cynthia O’Connor presented at the invitational Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute Winter Conference in Scottsdale Arizona, held for three days in January, 2017. Her presentation entitled Making It Stick…Documenting Value, focused the importance of evaluation for organizational capacity building. Her talk emphasized that evaluators need a clear understanding of how a particular intervention is intended to work, i.e. what is being implemented, for whom, how it’s different from “business as usual.” For Institute attendees she posed the question “when we are successful with a Lifecycle Capacity Building engagement what is different for the foundations or nonprofits we are working with?” Cynthia is a founding partner in the work to create the Institute and serves as a Lifecycle consultant for both the Gifford Foundation’s ADVANS initiative and the Health Foundation of Western & Central New York’s Ready or Not project in Syracuse, New York working with organizations at various lifecycle stages facing their own specific challenges.
The Institute is based on the work of Dr. Susan Kenny Stevens as outlined in her book, Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity. Dr. Kenny Stevens has been a trusted counselor for numerous foundation executives and her down-to-earth approach is valued by hundreds of nonprofits as they work to address with capacity building and sustainability.
A&O team member, Stephanie Burt Pelcher achieved her certification as a Cognitive Coaching Training Associate with Thinking CollaborativeTM at their 2017 Symposium in Denver, Colorado. Cognitive CoachingSM is a research-based model based on the work of co-founders, Arthur Costa and Robert Garmston that allows teachers to explore the thinking behind their practice and the teaching decisions they make. Research indicates that teaching is a complex intellectual activity and that teachers who think at higher levels produce students who are higher achieving, more cooperative and better problem solvers. According to Costa and Garmston, a cognitive coach helps educators “to develop expertise in planning, reflecting, problem‐solving, and decision‐making.” Stephanie is now authorized to teach the 8-day Seminars. The teachers benefitting from Stephanie’s work include a variety of learning styles, teaching philosophies, and stages of an educator’s professional development. Teachers provide rave reviews about Stephanie’s work. One administrator surveyed her staff and shared: universally positive feedback on Stephanie . . . knowledgeable; relevant and approachable presenter – would love to work with her again.
Recent changes at A&O create some sad goodbyes but also exciting new beginnings.
Dianne Apter, our co-founder, has retired and is on to new adventures. We miss her wisdom and warmth, but she hasn’t gone far. Dianne continues to be linked to A&O through consultation around specific projects. Meanwhile, A&O continues to grow and is fortunate to have an incredible team bringing wide-ranging skills and areas of expertise. Check them out on the “About Us” page.
Corinne Ribble, one of our valued team members, has taken a new position as the Executive Director of the NY Funders Alliance (http://www.nyfunders.org/). The Alliance is an association of grant-makers and philanthropic advisors throughout New York State, providing opportunity to share tools, knowledge and resources. Corinne brings a wealth of experience with coalition building and facilitation, community development, strategic planning, early childhood research and program evaluation. While at A&O, her clients included the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, The Onondaga County Early Childhood Alliance and Unity House of Cayuga County in Auburn New York (a multi-service agency empowering people in recovery, coping with mental illness or diagnosed with a developmental disability). More information about each of these projects can be found by clicking on “Our Work” page.
Sara Wall Bollinger has recently joined the A&O team. She has more than 30 years’ experience in organizational capacity building, business development, systems advocacy and management and has served as Executive Director for four not-for profit agencies in Central New York. She has experience with a wide diversity of organizations, in the fields of health, wellness, aging, mental health, disability, early childhood education, family planning, veterans, refugees and social services. Sara is a Health Leadership Fellow with the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York and a graduate of Leadership Greater Syracuse. She earned a Master’s degree in Education from Colgate University after graduating from Alfred University (BA) and Cazenovia College (AA). She is also active with several entities as a volunteer board member. At A&O, Sara is the lead consultant with Access to Independence of Cortland County ATI) (http://www.aticortland.org/. Through on-going support and technical assistance she is focusing with ATI Transition Services and their newly established Task Force for Increasing Disability Employment (TIDE).
The Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County in partnership with the Central New York Community Foundation hosted a day-long annual gathering on November 4th for all those communities across New York State actively engaged in the nationally-led Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The 2016 convening was planned and coordinated by Apter & O’Connor Associates as an opportunity to network, gain professional development, and work towards state-wide strategies. We had an exciting and diverse set of regional and national early childhood experts and facilitators this year that led the group in conversations around this year’s cohort identified themes of Building Strategic Partnerships – Locally and Statewide; Parent Engagement; Data for Measurable Progress; and Funder Collaborations.
The Watervliet City School District has commissioned A&O to evaluate their NYS Education Department funded Extended School Day / School Violence Prevention Program: Watervliet Extended Time Raises Achievement (ExTRA). Building on our work with The Syracuse City School District’s Extended Day program the Watervliet District outside of Albany New York, has similar expected outcomes: improved academic achievement in ELA and math; improved attendance; decreased discipline referrals and suspensions; knowledge and skills to resolve conflicts via peer mediation; increased family participation and involvement with school district activities.
This new program will extend the school day by providing after-school academic support and enrichment opportunities during the school year and summer months that builds upon and reinforces classroom instruction and contributes to school violence prevention by providing additional social/emotional support embedded in the regular and the extended school day through initiatives consistent with the prevention and intervention strategies outlined in the district’s safety plan. One of the criteria for receiving this competitive award was the recognition of A&O as a highly qualified evaluator. Cynthia O’Connor will serve as principal evaluator and will be assisted by Dr. Marvin Blachman.
A&O’s evaluation work with the Addison Central School District has led to a third round of funding from the US Department of Education for an Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant. Our quantitative and qualitative analysis and documentation of the results they achieved with past projects has supported Addison’s success in securing this funding. We are proud to partner with them for this new project, Ready to Read and Succeed. It is designed to establish a collaborative network of supports in the home, the school and across the community to prepare children for kindergarten and improve reading proficiency for a K through Grade 6 students.