Measuring Impact at Homeboy
Day 2 started with the house coffee at Homegirl cafe an addictive blend of coffee, orange peel and cinnamon and a fresh baked muffin. Everything is baked fresh daily and the left overs are distributed to any Homies hanging around at the end of the day.
The first stop on today's tour was Andrew from the IT department. By department, I mean team of one. He handles the website, tech support, point-of-sale management for all Homeboy sites and businesses, and then manages the database of information that's used to track outcomes.
Andrew graciously gave us an hour that he (no doubt) didn't have, to go over how Homeboy manages their outcomes. It turns out they have a customized database that creates a single point of entry for each client. They track demographic information for clients on intake, but throughout the process they try to track both ongoing and completed client goals, any certifications clients have received and if the client gets placed in employment. As is usually the case with individualized and holistic approaches, it's been difficult for them to find a standard metric to measure that provides a meaningful measure.
The lesson here was on the importance of starting early to understand how metrics can be collected and analyzed. Not only is this important from an outcomes reporting perspective, but internally it gives us a tool that will help us refine and perfect the impact of our programs.
Next on the rounds, we shared lunch with Marissa the Director of Educational Services. The focus of our meeting with her was on young people in the Homeboy program. She shared a ton of information with us, so much so that after two hours she finally took her lunch to go. Sorry Marissa.
She shared that in the Education Dept they tend to go through a lot of iterations to respond to the evolving needs of young people. Homeboy has two specific case workers for young people and they find this population struggles with a lack of connection to community resources. One of the Homeboy programs runs a school out of the Boyle Heights Church, they also hire kids on a part time basis so they can work towards their GED or attend an adult charter school. The youth programs also tend to partner more with other agencies to deliver relevant programming.
One such program, called Voices for Youth is a one week intensive program that's arts focused. Young people are involved in spoken word, drumming and writing and the week wraps up with a group presentation. In this program they've found that arts therapy can be very effective at engaging young people. Now they'd like to see a greater focus taken on the physical activity component. Marissa mentioned that experimentation with programming is fundamental.
Marissa believes that one of the most accessible things to add to the program from the Homeboy model is the navigator. Navigators are the peer support backbone and they provide young people with a tangible connection to the program.
Our last meeting of the day was with Ed, Homeboy's newly arrived Chief Development Officer. We connected with Ed to talk about fundraising and the how-to's of translating your story and outcomes into donor dollars. He presented a compelling case for putting your story into simple and understandable terms, which is easier said than done but is something we aspire to.
Our story, similar to Homeboy's is about showing people the generational impact of our work. It's about describing the ripple effect that's created when you take someone out of a cycle. Homeboy says that they're an exit ramp to gang life. Consider how the future of a young child is changed when their mom or dad successfully makes it to that exit ramp. Lives and generations are transformed.
Ed also made sure we understood the importance of relationships, relationships, relationships. He emphasized the need to increase touch points with our community and potential supporters in order to give them as many opportunities to genuinely experience us. Take-away: Build relationships and trust. Tell a compelling and clear story and for goodness sake make sure that you celebrate the good that happens as you grow.
The main point of the day was really the importance of try and try again. From the way they record data to how they develop programs and work with donors it's about trial and error. Don't be afraid to try.
Our last meeting was a brief chat with Father Greg Boyle, the Founder of Homeboy Industries. He's a popular guy around Homeboy and we had to wait outside his glass office as a procession of people, managed by a Homeboy bodyguard lined up to speak with him. It was lovely to meet him, but the magic was experiencing how he interacts with the people he shares his life with. It doesn't matter if you've been in prison, or you have "fuck you" tattooed under your eyes (yes, this is true), he's one of them. That's what he's created at Homeboy, kinship and community and it's what you feel the entire time you're there. That's something to aspire to.
At the end of the two days our brains and our hearts were full of the amazing things happening at Homeboy Industries. Absolutely the only thing that we could manage at the end of the day was to buy merchandise from their store, which we did.
Thank you so much to Alison for organizing the trip for us. For meeting with us on numerous occasions throughout our tour and sharing your wisdom. To all the homies that we had the chance to meet, the staff that gave us precious time, and to Homeboy Industries for supporting the Global Homeboy Network that's mentoring us and others non-stop to bring kindness, love and hope to communities around the world. We are grateful to be part of it.
We look forward to seeing you again at the Global Homeboy Network Conference in 2018.
Founder and Executive Director