LSA Blog

How Do We Know When We’re Making a Difference?

Blog Date: 
Thursday, November 19, 2015
by Alesia Frerichs, Vice President of Member Engagement

"We were started in this direction, but the cohort really helped focus our efforts and identify areas that we needed to explore more deeply," Myra Griffie, COO Lutheran Services Carolinas

What makes the LSA network so unique? In the words of LSA President and CEO Charlotte Haberaecker, "we grow and we do." It is in the "doing together" that our network of Lutheran social ministry organizations achieves true impact. It is in the doing that we combine our collective strength to achieve better outcomes for the people we serve.   

In the case of the LSA Children Youth and Family (CYF) Provider Exchange Learning Cohort, much has been done, and there is more to do. Last week marked the midpoint of a year- long learning and achieving journey for 12 LSA members that came together to focus on improving outcomes for at risk youth and their families. With support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Lutheran Services Children Endowment, this cohort of  LSA multi-service providers have been taking steps to strengthen their results-based focus and maximize the impact of their programs on the outcomes of the children, youth and families they serve.  

The group came together Nov. 11-12 in Baltimore at the Annie E. Casey Foundation headquarters to work with peer leader Dr. Laura Heinz and her team from Stanford Youth Solutions. 36 attendees from 12 organizations shared the challenges and successes they had achieved over the last six months. Peer groups focused on identifying solutions and actions on some of the broader challenges including transparency in understanding and communicating results, collecting meaningful data that measures quality of services, identifying financial and technical resources to measure outcomes, obtaining staff buy-in on measuring outcomes, and promoting organizational culture and mission-focused values in state-wide, multi-site organizations with remote staff and workforces.     

What outcomes are collected, how they are shared with stakeholders and the actions taken based upon results were discussed. Sean DeFour, Vice President, Services for Children and Families at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, whose organization serves over 800 youth a day in foster care, declared a goal of radical transparency. Several organizations described processes to expand outcome measures to include third-party data sources. Many groups have engaged youth feedback into the overall assessment process and are working toward a more active role in using outcomes in a feedback loop to improve programs and client care.

While much success has been realized in the first six months of this cohort, all know there is more work to do. As Knox Kimberly, Senior VP, Government and Corporate Relations for Upbring stated, "Getting it right takes time and requires broad and deep organizational engagement."

The cohort will continue to work together and move forward on implementing changes and achieving results. Several virtual convenings will occur over the next few months, and the cohort will reconvene at the start of the LSA Annual Conference April 25th and 26th in Minneapolis. With so much energy, commitment and action the growing and doing together will continue to drive results and improve outcomes for at-risk youth.

The following LSA member organizations are participating in the Provider Exchange® cohort: Lutheran Services Carolinas; Lutheran Services Florida, Inc.; Lutheran Services in Iowa; Lutheran Social Services of  Indiana; Lutheran Social Services of Michigan; Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota; Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area; Upbring (the new Lutheran Social Services of the South); Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains; Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska; Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries; and Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, Inc.

Find out more about the LSA CYF working group:


The in-person meetings of the cohort have been extremely beneficial. I especially appreciate the incorporation of the peer learning opportunity. I believe that interaction will help us to stay engaged as a network beyond the end of the cohort. The ability to have multiple leadership staff involved has allowed us to achieve significant progress in a short period of time as we share a common understanding of the principles of a outcomes driven culture.

Thanks to the AECF for the opportunity to be part of the first-of-its-kind construct of a learning partnership between organizations who seek to promote outcomes-driven cultures through the expertise of a provider with a proven track record of successfully doing so. The approach leverages strengths, knowledge and resources very effectively. Thanks to the LSCE grant for helping fund travel. For this type of partnership to work,, it is essential that all participants in each learning cohort be afforded multiple opportunities in face-to-face meetings where they can learn from each other in a setting that promotes authentic collaboration and focused attention not otherwise possible. The financial support provided for technical support and travel costs are extremely helpful to all participants in these endeavors, who are already devoting substantial time and resources to participate, and is exceptionally helpful in achieving the larger purpose of the partnership in leading the charge toward outcomes-driven cultures that will make all of our sector endeavors more valuable and impactful. Many thanks to all involved!!!

While this is an important project for our agency and is necessary, without the support of LSA and AECF it would likely have continued to be an attempt at the reinvention of the wheel, so to speak. This cohort has allowed us to learn so much from our peer LSA agencies who have already successfully dealt with so many of the same issues as those that we are currently attempting to resolve. Thanks so much!

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