Project Renewal

Apr 07

Outcomes, Quality, and Evaluation, OH MY!

The human services non-profit sector is in the midst of a management revolution, a revolution built on measurement.

Words like evaluation, performance management, outcomes measurement, and performance based contracts are now joining the ranks of quality assurance, compliance reviews, and performance audits in the minds of nonprofit leaders.  With all of these concepts flying around, many non-profit leaders don’t know the difference between them; they just want to be running effective programs!    So let’s say you want to get in on all of this ‘outcomes’ stuff – where do you begin?  What does this all even mean?

This post is my attempt to cut through the confusion, and define some of the main differences among the different ways of measuring nonprofits.

Compliance vs. Excellence

One the most important distinctions to make is between measurement for compliance and measurement for excellence.  My work at Project Renewal has four main components, which I will use as examples to differentiate those two approaches.  Those components are (1) regulatory compliance, (2) quality assurance, (3) performance measurement, and (4) evaluation. 

The first two items are about making sure that we are doing the minimum necessary for our nonprofit to be considered doing ‘good’ work.  These are more traditional models of measuring the work of a nonprofit, and ones that most leaders should be familiar with.

The last two items on my list aren’t about doing the least that we can do, but about being as excellent as we can be.  Instead of just trying to clear the low bar, we strive for the gold metal and setting new world records for how amazing programs can be.

The difference between performance measurement, evaluation, and research is often hard to understand, but hopefully the chart below outlines it a little clearer.

Your priorities and resources are will determine which way you want to approach measurement, as will the type of program that you run.  You may use one or more of the above types of measurement in your organization, and you might be doing things that I don’t talk about here.  There are lots of other ways to think about measurement in nonprofit organizations, but I hope this provided a framework for you to think about measurement in your nonprofit workplace.

As Director of Strategy and Evaluation at Project Renewal, Patrick lGermain leads a team of internal evaluators, conducts a wide range of evaluative activities, and manages any external evaluator relationships.  Patrick also runs a professional networking group on issues of performance measurement and management in the non-profit and public sectors which currently has over 120 members and has had ongoing bimonthly events since its inception. Patrick has an MA  in Public Administration from NYU Wagner.

Apr 02

Expert View: What did you miss today at #Data4Humans ?

Many thanks to everyone who attended the event this morning organized by Patrick Germain, Project Renewal’s Director of Strategy & Evaluation and also President of NYCE.

Below find the event info, the Storify feed from the Twitter conversation, and (soon!) the transcript of the event.


Event Info:

Information and Technology in Human Services: 
Who’s at the Table and How We Can Work Together More Effectively

Cosponsored by the New York Consortium of Evaluators (NYCE) 
NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Ivy Pool – Executive Director, HHS Connect at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Operations
Marlowe Greenberg - Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Foothold Technology
Brad Dudding – Chief Operating Officer, Center for Employment Opportunity
Derek Coursen, Director of Planning & Informatics at Public Health Solutions

Patrick Germain, Director of Strategy & Evaluation, Project Renewal and President of the New York Consortium of Evaluators

Overview: Different groups of stakeholders in the human service sector (nonprofit leaders, policy makers, government funders, philanthropic funders, evaluators, service delivery staff, clients, etc.) understand the role of information, data, and technology in the human services sector in different ways. Lack of coordination among these various players leads to very concrete challenges in the development of information systems. Nonprofits have a lot of potential in using data and technology in new and innovative ways, but they often struggle with the most mundane challenges of data management, basic technology support, and meeting the requirements of government and philanthropic funders.  Government agencies have their own set of complicating factors as well.  How can the human services sector push past these basic challenges to benefit from the great potential that data and modern technology hold? The panelists will discuss these challenges with an eye towards solutions that are relevant for both individual organizations/projects as well as the human services sector as a whole.

Transcript of the event will be posted shortly.

Feb 26

Day trips, guest speakers, even crossword puzzles

At Project Renewal, honoring Black History Month Takes on Many Forms.

Most of the people that Project Renewal serves are engaged in putting the pieces back together and moving on to renewed lives.  It can entail daily—sometimes even hour by hour— focus and struggle. Yet even so, staff and residents alike throughout our 16 sites and numerous programs are finding time and ways, this month, to honor, recognize, observe and celebrate black history.

In some cases, like at Renewal House, our transitional housing program for men recovering from substance abuse, observance is a grassroots thing, initiated by the residents themselves. “We noticed that a lot of our people were very interested in it this year,” reports Renewal House Assistant Director Monica Diaz. In response, she hung posters and biographies of notable African Americans from Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X on the walls, and added  black history as a running theme in the four group discussions staff and residents engage in each month. 

Residents at our Third Street Men’s Shelter enjoyed the holiday celebrations so much that Assistant Shelter Director Aluta Khanyile’s continued a seasonal theme by highlighting Black History Month. “The response to all the activities and events we had over the holidays was so positive,” he explains, “that we thought, why not have another celebration, centered on Black History Month, this time?”  Posting them in the common areas of the 200-bed facility, Aluta intends that even in passing the images of—and quotations from—notable Black Americans will raise staff and residents’ awareness, as well as open the door to further cultural exchange. “Next,” he declares, “we need to recognize and celebrate the Hispanic people’s heritage.”

The most elaborate observance of Black History at Project Renewal this year has is in our 200-bed Fort Washington Men’s Shelter for men diagnosed with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues.  Here, Recreation Therapist Joseph White has cooked up a month-long string of related activities and events, including special crossword puzzles, trivia matches, field trips and guest speakers, all centered on Black History Month and culminating in a grand, evening-long talent show featuring staff and resident actors, singers, and musicians, in performance.  It is a tradition White has cultivated over the years.

Likewise, when the Geffner House Recreation Director Ellis Eisner was first hired eight years ago, she decided to invite a guest speaker to the 20-story, 307-unit building for formerly homeless men and women.  “I grew up during the movement,” confides Ellis who upholds this tradition February. “I was eight years old when they assassinated Martin Luther King.  So this is an important holiday to me.” This month’s activities include a group day trip to Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture,  a visit from poetess/therapist Barbara Bethea, better known to her fans as the “Afrikana Madonna,” and, new this year, construction of a black-themed Papier-mâché community “quilt” assembled from individual panels created by staff and residents. 

Feb 24

The day the pipes broke

In the depths of this winter’s brutal cold snap, a looming crisis: a homeless shelter in the Bronx is suddenly rendered uninhabitable due to broken water pipes. An emergency call from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to Project Renewal’s new, state-of-the-art Bronx Boulevard Shelter provided the solution.

“It was in the evening. I was on my way home after my shift when my cell phone rang,” recalls Ana Charle, Director of Bronx Boulevard.  The shelter wasn’t yet fully open so Ana quickly scrambled to make sure that there were enough staff, goods and services in place to make her unanticipated visitors as comfortable as possible.

“DHS told me 20 clients were coming, so I put in a call to Comfort Foods (Project Renewal’s catering company) to rush over 20 meals” says Ana. “Then they called me back and told me the number was closer to 90. I had to get right back on the line and order another 70 meals.”

Our staff pulled together that night, stepping outside their regular roles to help wherever needed - ensuring that the facility was clean and that sheets, blankets and toiletries were on hand.  Although employees were called in to work unexpectedly, many volunteered to stay for 14 and 21 hour shifts to make certain that our guests’ needs were met!

Feb 21

The best Valentine’s Day gift ever

Tania Santiago wasn’t focused on getting something this Valentine’s Day. What she wanted was for this February 14th to be about giving. Tania called up Project Renewal and asked what she could do. She was put in touch with our Medical Van Outreach Coordinator, Jennie Mejia, who made a few suggestions as to how she could help. Thanks to Tania’s initiative there were plenty of warm winter coats to go around, Renewal  Kits with essential toiletries for patients on our medical vans, cookies, as well as a generous $200 donation—all collected from friends and family Tania had recruited to the cause!

A Poet Mines Memories of Drug Addiction

(Source: The New York Times)

Feb 10

PRI Champions of HOPE.

Our hats are off to Emily Brown, Elizabeth Fasanya, Shanira Griffith, Aluta Khanyile, Jackie Moore, Jana Pohorelsky, Mizraim Reyes, Rosalind Williams, and Brittany Zenner.  These nine Project Renewal staffers volunteered to be DHS HOPE surveyors.  So, on Monday, January 27TH, they were out in the frigid night, traveling some of this city’s meaner avenues, looking for anyone living on the streets. 

As Emily Brown, who recruited our volunteers explains, DHS (NYC Department of Homeless Services) purposely chooses January to do the annual HOPE (Homeless Outreach Population Estimate) count,  so that they can identify chronically homeless individuals living unsheltered, who tend  to tough it out during the colder nights rather than use the shelter system.

                HOPE count data factors into how the city allocates resources.   An undercount could result in an shortfall of services and/or facilities and supplies on hand.  So we are proud of our PRI staffers who braved the chill themselves so that when vulnerable New Yorkers seek help in the future, they will not get left out in the cold.

One of them, Mizraim Reyes, of our Medical Department, went a step further when she encountered a man who hadn’t eaten in a while. “I offered to call the DHS Van for him,” she recalls, “but he didn’t want to go to a shelter and leave behind his two shopping carts full of his possessions, which the shelter can’t accommodate. So I asked him, ‘Well what do you want us to do for you?’ and he said ‘I’m hungry,’ so we went to a deli and got him something to eat.”

A huge thanks to you all, our Project Renewal Champions of HOPE!

Feb 04

Meet Gilbert Taylor, New York’s New Homelessness Chief - WNYC

Gilbert Taylor


Jan 08

Tour our new Bronx Blvd Men’s Shelter

Tour our new Bronx Blvd Men’s Shelter