Process Mapping Improves Program

I recently worked with an inner city nonprofit agency’s family resource center to improve internal program performance measurement systems and tools. The program provides parenting education and support services to immigrant mothers with young children. Its director wanted to better understand the program’s impact on clients’ lives and be able to report more reliable data to executive staff, board of directors and especially to foundation supporters. After several months, the program had a new logic model, evaluation framework and easier to use tools and strategies for collecting, analyzing and reporting client outcomes data. But one of the most important project outcomes was the revelation that the program suffered from a previously unnoticed flaw in its design and delivery. After this insight, I worked with staff to correct the flaw and improve the program.

Process Mapping

At the start of the project, I needed to learn how program staff actually delivered their educational and support interventions. I guided them through an efficient and powerful exercise called “process mapping,” during which staffers created client flow charts or maps. For each of the four main activities, staff drew pictures of their clients’ movement through the different interventions, from recruitment to completion. This process helped me quickly get an overview of each activity in the program and, at the same time, gave staff a brand new perspective on their work.

The exercise led to an important “ah ha moment”. Drawing their map of the parents support group, staff saw a clear connection between the time prospective clients were waiting to enroll and the fact that staff was not “graduating” parents from the group. When I asked about the backlog, staff said that some participants attended the support groups for as long as they wanted to, sometimes for over two years. The waitlist of parents needing support and not able to access it was growing.

Improving the Program

I asked staff members to consider how they might ease the bottleneck.
➢Could they lead the support groups in a way that would move parents to a desirable level of emotional stability within six months or a year?
➢If so, what should the target outcomes be?
➢If they aren't sure, how could they find or figure this out?
➢What strategies would they need to implement to be able to move parents to the target outcomes?
➢How would they go about collecting, analyzing and reviewing data on parents’ progress so they would know whether the revised program was working and which parents were advancing and which needed additional support?
With the clear new targets and solid data, program staff are confident that the support groups will have a better chance of helping parents achieve self-sufficiency in developing their own social support networks. The regularly collected assessment data will allow staff to confidently “graduate” parents to community-based support within a year and enable other needy parents to get the support they need more promptly.
What methods do you use to see if your programs are being delivered as intended and whether they're serving your clients as well as they could be?