Author Post: Lessons for public managers for instilling a data culture

Written by Cheryl A. Camillo (pictured below), author of Hubert Project E-Case “Learning to Use Data in a Public Human Services Agency”. "We don’t,” said the branch chief with the courage to utter the unexpected when I asked the managers of my nascent state office how they used data to do their jobs. As I learned, the employees of Maryland’s Office of Eligibility Services (OES), like many in public service, performed their duties without up-to-date tools and training. Less than one year later that same manager regularly developed and populated data tables tracking the success of our Medical Assistance to Families expansion. One unsolicited case processing report she delivered bore a smiley face and note reading "I attached 2... Continue reading

Author Post: A model for understanding complex organizations

Written by Julia Jackson (pictured below), co-author of Hubert Project E-Case "Before & After: Exploring organizational change from four perspectives". Trying to understand an organization can feel like a monumental task. There is the mission of the organization, its purpose and values. Digging in a little more we can look at the programs and the communities the organization serves, and the actual impact the organization is making. But there are also the staff members, their day-to-day interactions, and how the organizational hierarchy is set up. We can also look at the board of directors and how the directors interact with each other and with other elements of the organization. Partnerships with other organizations can be important... Continue reading

Author Post: Just Grow

Written by Heather Getha-Taylor, author of Hubert Project E-Case "Ripe for Change: Just Food's Recovery from Executive Misconduct" In Fall 2016, I taught a course on nonprofit management at the University of Kansas. In preparation for the session on financial management, I was struck by the scope of fraud and misconduct in charitable organizations. I selected some high-profile stories to present the myriad impacts of corruption on stakeholder trust, organizational reputation, and client services. Among those stories was one from our own backyard: the story of Jeremy Farmer and his 2015 embezzlement from Just Food, a food bank that serves Douglas County, Kansas. One of the students in the class shared her thoughts on this unfortunate l... Continue reading

Is the Future of U.S. Foreign Aid in the Hands of Small Nonprofit Organizations? Maybe.

Written by Susan Appe, author of Hubert Project E-Case "Nonprofit Leadership Across Borders" Official foreign aid by the U.S. government was on the chopping block while I was working on this E-Case, which is about a small, international nonprofit organization working in international development. It seemed to be good timing, as I have found that these organizations are a growing trend and might now play an important role in how Americans contribute to development projects abroad. As such, I was moved to write a short piece for The Conversations about the topic of “do it-yourself” foreign aid while drafting up the E-Case. Small, international nonprofit organizations like FIOH-USA in Buffalo, New York, directly relate to my re... Continue reading

Author Post: Maximizing Human Potential with the Health and Human Services Value Curve

Written by Phil Basso, co-author with Jodi Sandfort of Hubert Project E-Study “The Health and Human Services Value Curve” Health and human services organizations in the public, non-profit, and private sectors invest tens of billions of dollars each year to help the people they serve to achieve health and well-being. Yet the desired outcomes are still hard to deliver. The Health and Human Services Value Curve* is a lens―a way of looking at what we do from the point of view of program participants. By using it, human services practitioners are more likely to realize the potential of the people they serve and understand the systems they use to do so. The Value Curve is not one more thing for human services practitioners to d... Continue reading

Creatively engaging stakeholders in evaluation

Written by Leah Goldstein Moses, author of Hubert Project E-Study “Evaluation as Engagement” When I talk to people who are interested in evaluation, they often ask me what my favorite tools are – expecting me to tell them about the latest survey or analysis software. Thanks to some innovative work by my colleagues, I have a surprising answer: a volleyball. How can a volleyball be an evaluation tool? At a recent event where we were gathering data from participants, we taped evaluation questions all over a volleyball. As participants caught the ball, they answered whatever question faced them. It was a great way to quickly get them engaged and open them up to possibilities. Over the years, I’ve learned that without careful at... Continue reading

Author post: Nonprofits can and should advocate

Written by Rinal Ray, author of Hubert Project E-Study "Nonprofit Advocacy Advances Organizational Mission" “We don’t want to be too political.” “We’ll lose donors if we weigh in on policy.” “Isn’t it against the law?” “We can’t afford a lobbyist.” These are all things nonprofits leaders say about nonprofit advocacy and lobbying. While there might be some concerns or misinformation out there as reasons to not engage in advocacy, there are many reasons to advocate. In a time of polarizing rhetoric, uncertainty in the political and policy environment, and marginalization of community voices -- nonprofit advocacy matters! When nonprofits carry out their mission through direct service, they address immed... Continue reading

Author Post: Demystifying Theory of Change

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Written by Al Onkka, Author of Hubert Project E-Case: “Leading with Theory of Change”

Al Onkka

Theory of Change is one of those terms that can elicit groans from nonprofit practitioners.

Who has time to think about theories? And the word “change” makes people sweat a little. But, every organization I’ve worked with that goes through the process of creating a theory of change finds value and motivation in it. I think it’s because creating a theory of change requires that you think about your organization’s work in terms of positive outcomes – the change you are trying to create in the world.

Theory of change is valuable because it is a different way of thinking about your work, but different ways of thinking can be difficult to learn. Over the years, as a theory of change facilitator, I’ve seen that organizations can benefit a lot from a little theory of change when it’s done as a group process. I’ve also found that organizations learn theory of change best by doing it.

While there are many free (and good) online resources for those interested in diving deep into theory of change, they can be overwhelming to nonprofit practitioners. In this e-Study, I present theory of change in a way that I hope is accessible to those who are not familiar with it, or may even be skeptical of it. A more accessible theory of change process allows more people to participate. I’ve organized the e-study so that you can get started right away and learn the important concepts as you encounter them naturally. I’ve eliminated or reduced the amount of technical language – such as preconditions, ceiling of accountability, indicators – in the first half of the e-Study so as not to scare anyone off.

I love facilitating theory of change because it gets to the core of why we all do the important work we do. I hope that this e-Study helps more practitioners and organizations feel comfortable creating and using theory of change.

Still on the fence? Visit the e-Study and hear me speak more about theory of change on the introductory page.

Al Onkka is a principal consultant at Aurora Consulting, a Minnesota-based firm providing participatory strategic planning and evaluation services to small and midsized nonprofits. Al has worked in the field of evaluation, promoting data-based decision-making and organizational learning, since 2009. He uses and builds others capacity to use an evaluative lens to help their organizations discern and maximize their impact. 

Author Post: The Power of Storytelling

Written by Katrina Pierson, co-author of the Hubert Project e-study: "The Anatomy of Story"   I’ve never met a data set that blew my mind. But last night, I bawled my eyes out to the movie Frida. You might argue that Hollywood has an edge, with their behemoth budgets and top-flight writers. However, from a very young age, we all know how to tell powerful stories. My four-year-old daughter, Norah, can’t yet read but is beginning to assemble stories. She lives in a rich imaginary world with a gaggle of friends that only she can see. She draws series of them, and shares oral accounts of their difficulties and triumphs that mirror her own: getting the stomach flu, blowing out the candles on her birthday cake, missing her mo... Continue reading

Author Post: Seven Counties Services – Mission Before Pension

Written by Gwen Cooper, co-author of the Hubert Project e-case: "Mission Before Pension" Since the day I was told we would be filing Chapter 11 to divest ourselves of the unsustainable employer contribution requirement to the Kentucky Retirement System my life has not been the same. That may sound overly dramatic but I was the newly appointed Chief Development Officer charged with raising substantial funds for a $100 Million behavioral health organization that had never raised money before. How was I supposed to ask donors for money to fund an organization in Chapter 11? One month after we filed, amidst the huge political backlash and media frenzy, our VP of Community and Government Affairs resigned for health reasons (pretty stressfu... Continue reading