In January, 2023 Adrienne Ammerman (WNC Health Network) interviewed Meron Abebe (Operations Manager & Improvement Specialist, WNCHN) and Hannah Robinson Michael from Partners Aligned Toward Health about our organizations’ work together as it relates to Results-Based Accountability.
Meron and Hannah, let’s start with some introductions. Please each of you tell me a little bit about who you are – your role at your agency and the kinds of things you do day-to-day.
Meron: My name is Meron, Operations Manager & Improvement Specialist at WNC Health Network. The kinds of things I do, day to day include: Budget and financial management and reporting; Contracts; Policies and compliance, and General monitoring and accountability of organizational performance measures. I also provide support to our clients, like PATH, specifically around the implementation of evidence-based evaluation frameworks and qualitative data gathering and analysis.
Hannah: My name is Hannah and I’m the Healthy Lifestyles Program Manager at Partners Aligned Toward Health or PATH. PATH is a nonprofit. We use collaborative approaches to improve the health and wellbeing of families and community members in Mitchell and Yancey counties. Our initiatives shift as the community identifies new health needs but over the last several years, we’ve focused on healthy wellbeing and substance misuse prevention. In my role, I support a variety of programs, including the Healthy Yancey Coalition, Summer Food Program, and the Burnsville Fit Families 5K to name a few. I also support the data and evaluation work for PATH.
Meron, can you tell us at a high level what Results-based accountability is?
Meron: RBA is a way of thinking, organizing, and taking action in a disciplined manner. It is used to plan, evaluate, and improve projects, programs, and community-wide efforts. It helps people describe the contribution their work makes to the health and wellbeing of their community. RBA has been recognized as an evidence-based practice for evaluation and planning by the CDC, the National Institute of Health (IHI), and NC DHHS. In western NC, RBA is being used by hospitals, public health agencies, nonprofits, funders, and other local and regional partners in community health.
Hannah, how is PATH interested in Results-Based Accountability? What feels valuable about using RBA in your work?
Hannah: When people hear you support data and evaluation efforts for an organization some people’s eyes glaze over or they feel intimidated or there is general disinterest in the topic. We really had a desire to be able to talk about data and evaluation in a way that engages people and the RBA framework provides a commonsense approach that makes data and evaluation easy to understand regardless of your background. We also realized that internally, we needed a shared language around our work, our impact, and data & evaluation in general. The RBA framework has helped us do that and this makes moving our evaluation work forward much easier. Another major bonus of using the RBA framework is that funders have become interested in it. Sharing how PATH is using RBA has been beneficial on our grant applications and in general conversations with funders.
What made your team decide to reach out to WNC Health Network, and what kind of support were you looking for?
Hannah: Before I started at PATH, the organization was interested in improving their data and evaluation efforts to better demonstrate the impact that PATH is having on the community.
This led some staff to attend the regional RBA trainings hosted by the Network. This was helpful for building a general foundation in the framework and making an organizational switch to using RBA with all of our programs. Most recently, Meron and Emily led a PATH specific RBA training. This was great because it allowed all of our staff to be trained on RBA and they were able to use examples relevant to PATH throughout the training. We’ve also worked with the Network to develop evaluation plans for some of our specific programs. As the person on PATH’s staff that generally facilitates conversation around evaluation, it was extremely helpful to work with the Network because they laid out the plans for the meeting and facilitated conversation. I felt like I could more effectively participate in these conversations because I didn’t hold the dual role of facilitator and participant. The Network was there to hold the space. Being a part of developing these evaluation plans as a participant has build my confidence and my capacity to better lead these conversations with my team in the future. The last thing I’ll share is that WNCHN works with organizations throughout the region so they are able to share how our work and measures align with our partners through-out the region and the state. It’s been helpful for us to see how our work fits into the larger picture of the region.
Meron, Tell us a little bit more about what this partnership with PATH looked like from WNCHN’s end. [Do you have anything to add about] what kind of support you and our team provided on this project?
Meron: Our team has worked with PATH for many years on multiple projects. Last year, we provided evaluation support for two of their programs – Cougar Fit Club and Appalachian Youth to Youth. We reviewed existing strategy activities and measures and used the RBA framework to facilitate 5 evaluation workgroup meetings. We led the group through the first several steps of the RBA performance accountability decision making process to create an evaluation plan. And – during the process, we coached the team in developing and prioritizing performance measures and creating a data development agenda. We also provided a tailored virtual RBA training for PATH team members with a focus on RBA knowledge, use, and infusion into their specific projects and activities. We had 4, 2-hour sessions, spread over 4 weeks. We also administered a pre-and post-training organizational assessment tool, analyzed the data, and shared the findings with PATH.
How does this kind of project align with WNCHN’s values and approach for how we work in the region?
Meron: We bring our values to all our work with all clients. For instance, with the evaluation project and the RBA training, we co-designed the tools and materials we used with PATH and coached their team throughout, because we wanted to make sure that we are meeting their unique needs and building their capacity, rather than just BEING capacity, as that supports and sustains locally led improvements.
Wrapping up – Hannah, what’s next? How do you plan to use what you learned?
Hannah: Our next steps are to continue using RBA in our work and imbedding it into the overall functioning of the organization. We’re also eager to continue using our evaluation tools to get feedback from our customers so we can improve our work and ensure we’re meeting the needs of our community.
We also welcomed a new staff member at the beginning of the year so we’ll be sending Jacquie to an RBA training. She will be taking over our Home Remedies program. The program is an online course that introduces participants to strategies for pain management and stress reduction, all of which are presented by local complementary health providers. This program is paid for through an opioid response grant from the state so we’ll be working with Jacquie to update our evaluation tools using the RBA framework
Any words of wisdom or suggestions for other local organizations or agencies that want to infuse RBA into their work?
Hannah: PATH’s work with WNCHN focused on infusing RBA at the program level first. Later, we were able to train all of our staff in the RBA process. I’d recommend that organizations prioritize training staff on the RBA framework first, then honing in on specific programs. I’d also recommend training your entire staff if you can, not just your data people because the benefit of creating a shared language about evaluation is invaluable.
Meron: In 2023, we plan to hold two virtual RBA trainings, that we call “Getting to Results”. The first one is in February and the second one is in September. People who are interested can go to our website at www.wnchn.org and find RBA Training under the “What we do” tab. They will find a registration link on the bottom of that page.
Thank you both so much for sharing with us about this experience.