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CSBG Dear Colleague Letter Organizational Standards & Performance Management Update FY 2013

Published: August 23, 2013
Audience:
Community Services Block Grants (CSBG)
Category:
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Dear Colleague Notices

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Community Services
Division of State Assistance
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447

www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/programs/csbg
 

Community Services Block Grant
Dear Colleague Letter

Re:
CSBG Organizational Standards & Performance Management Update

Date: August 23, 2013

Dear Colleagues:

The purpose of this message is to provide you with an update and solicit your feedback on the development of new organizational standards and performance management tools for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Network.  In addition, as outlined later in this message, the Office of Community Services (OCS) is seeking feedback about what state measures should be designated as “critical key measures” to be implemented in the short-term as part of an enhanced performance management system.

During the last year, OCS and its cooperative agreement partners have made significant progress in the development of new standards and performance management tools for CSBG.  This message provides a brief summary of our accomplishments to date and provides information on what to expect moving forward.  As part of the process, underway across all Federal agencies, for enhanced accountability for results and effective use of government resources, the CSBG Network undertook a year-long effort to reflect on its data collection and measurement systems and how they relate to management decisions.

All three levels of the Network (Federal, State, and local entities) participated in the process and together have structured a set of organizational standards and performance management tools to demonstrate and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Network as a whole.  The Urban Institute (UI) was selected by OCS to lend its expertise in the field of performance management and guide the development of the performance management tools.  In addition, OCS provided funding to two new Centers of Excellence (COEs) via cooperative agreements. 

• A new Organizational Standards COE was developed to assist States and local CSBG-eligible entities to set and meet high organizational standards that can be used across the Network.  The COE was called upon to develop a product with input from all key stakeholders, and create tools for organizational assessment that can be used by States and local CSBG eligible entities to set and meet high-quality organizational standards and enhance accountability.  The grantee for this effort is the National Community Action Partnership (the Partnership).

• A new Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) Next Generation COE was created to update the National Performance Indicators (NPIs) and training and technical assistance (T/TA) materials building on the ROMA cycle of performance management.  The grantee for this effort, also selected through a competitive process, is the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP).

Also, eleven new Regional Performance and Innovative Consortia (RPIC), composed of representative State Associations of Community Action Agencies (CAAs) for the States within each region, were supported and required to commit resources to support the development and implementation of the organizational standards and ROMA Next Generation practices. 

OCS set a goal that by July 31, 2013, the CSBG grantees and contractors would complete deliberative processes with network participants and outside experts and would deliver information to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on organizational standards.  It was outlined that these standards would inform future administration and legislative efforts to use a set of standards to achieve high-quality service delivery, and to institute competition when agencies do not meet those standards. 

Also, by July 31, 2013, CSBG grantees and contractors were to collaborate with network participants and outside experts and deliver draft recommendations for instituting performance management tools.  The recommendations would include Federal and State performance measures.

Summary of Input Process

The process for input on organizational standards and the draft recommendations for instituting performance management tools was an extensive joint effort of OCS, the Partnership, NASCSP, and UI.  It included twenty-five listening sessions (conducted online and in-person) convened by the Partnership, three Task Force meetings comprised of representatives from all three levels of the Network and convened by UI, two expert meetings also convened by UI, coordinated feedback from state associations, the ROMA trainer’s network and other state level groups (facilitated by NASCSP), and weekly meetings and telephone calls between OCS and UI.  It has also involved environmental scans of other performance management systems among federal agencies.

What Has Been Accomplished?

While much challenging work lies ahead, OCS and its partners have been successful in meeting the goals outlined at the outset of the fiscal year.  Most notably, OCS officially received a detailed set of organizational standards, and draft recommendations for instituting performance measures   for State and Federal CSBG administration, and is updating the ROMA and NPI process. 

Organizational Standards – The Foundation of Accountability

This July, OCS officially received a full set of proposed organizational standards from the Organizational Standards COE.  A copy of this document is available on the following web link:

http://www.communityactionpartnership.com/storage/cap/documents/2013/...

OCS commends the Organizational Standards COE for the collaborative input process in the development of these standards and is now preparing official guidance related to the implementation of these standards for the network.   It is important to note that these standards represent a “foundation” of necessary elements to meet the unique comprehensive anti-poverty mission of CSBG. 

Next Steps:  This fall, OCS will provide new guidance, within our legislative authorities, on these standards, and is committed to a consultative process for States and local communities for future updates or modifications.  Based on final Federal review, OCS may adjust or modify standards prior to this guidance, but will do so in close consultation with the Organizational Standards COE and other key stakeholders.  During the next year, OCS will also be working with the Organizational Standards COE to develop recommended tools and training related to the organizational standards.  Our goal is to promote a process of implementation that involves extensive collaboration between State authorities and the State networks of CSBG eligible entities.

ROMA Next Generation – The Measurement and Reporting of Local Results

While the implementation of new organizational standards will represent a strengthened foundation of efficiency and accountability in CSBG, updates to the performance measurement and reporting system will assure accountability for results for low-income individuals, families, and communities with attention to how CSBG dollars are invested to address local needs and goals.  The ROMA Next Generation COE has conducted a thoughtful and extensive analysis of current ROMA practices nationwide, has developed a revised theory of change for CSBG, and has created an analytical white paper assessing key issues and options for changes to current CSBG data collection and reporting through the NPI system.  The most recent iteration of the analytical white paper is available on the following web link:

http://www.nascsp.org/data/files/csbg_roma/third%20iteration_draft%20...

Next Steps:  This Fall, the ROMA Next Generation COE, administered by NASCSP, will develop proposed modifications to portions of the current CSBG Information Survey (CSBG-IS) and will pilot test them in States and communities.  The goal of this effort is to issue guidance and training for a significantly revised set of NPIs, focused more on outcomes for the people and communities served by the Network, which will be used in FY 2015.  It is expected that these outcome measures will be rolled up at the State and Federal levels.  NASCSP is soliciting feedback on these alternatives and other models from both the CSBG Network and others through a series of webinars, presentations, and consultations with experts.  Proposed NPIs for FY 2015 will be pilot tested in October-December 2013, and then revised based on the theory of change, analysis and results of the pilot test.  NASCSP plans to release instructions for the upcoming year in February or early March 2014.  Updates on the implementation of this effort will be available on the following website:

http://www.nascsp.org/CSBG/594/ROMA.aspx?iHt=12

In addition, next year OCS plans to issue a new funding opportunity announcement for future data collection and analysis of CSBG.  OCS will be outlining new expectations for data collection and reporting in future years for the state performance measures, organizational standards and the NPIs.  OCS will analyze input received this past year from the CSBG Performance Management Task Force in developing future data collection plans.

Federal and State Performance Management – Essential to Block Grant Success

Under the block grant structure, Federal and State authorities share responsibility for oversight and management in CSBG.  Many elements of the proposed performance management at these two levels are, therefore, closely connected although their unique roles are also reflected.  Ultimately, of course, they share the responsibility for achieving CSBG’s mission of improving the lives of low-income families and communities.

State CSBG agencies are uniquely positioned in the Network because they have direct interactions with both the local and Federal levels of the Network. They develop the state plan for community action, oversee and monitor local eligible entities performance, and report to the Federal oversight agency (OCS).  The primary responsibilities of State CSBG agencies are funds allocation; monitoring and oversight; T/TA and capacity building to local entities (either directly or through contracted organizations); data aggregation, analysis and reporting; as well as communication, relationship management and convening.  These responsibilities are meant to ensure that the CSBG eligible entities effectively and efficiently use CSBG funds to address the local needs of low-income families.

At the Federal level, the purpose of the Division of State Assistance (DSA)/OCS is to allocate funding as well as provide monitoring, T/TA, guidance, and advocacy services to State, Territorial, and Tribal grantees (as well as discretionary grantees) so they can meet the requirements of the CSBG Block Grant and enable CSBG eligible entities to meet organizational standards and projected program outcomes focused on improving the lives of low income families and communities. 

Draft recommendations for Federal and State performance measures have been developed by UI after several meetings with the CSBG Performance Management Task Force, a series of conference calls and webinars with a group of individuals representing State level agencies and associations, and a review of written feedback received from the field.  The draft recommended performance measures reflect the primary responsibilities of the State CSBG agencies as noted above.  They include approximately 20 measures categorized into various functional areas that measure both the impact of States’ efforts as well as their efficiency and effectiveness. 

Draft Federal standards and performance measures were developed by UI and DSA within OCS after several meetings with the CSBG Performance Management Task Force, a series of meetings with DSA staff and feedback from the field.  The draft recommended performance measures reflect the primary responsibilities of DSA and include approximately 15 measures.  Eight of the performance measures have been identified as “critical key measures” and, therefore, to be implemented first.

DSA requests further input from the States to identify and decide on priority measures for the States.  We request that the States provide feedback about what State measures should be designated as “critical key measures” to be implemented in the short-term.  Feedback should be provided by September 9, 2013 to the Urban Institute at CSBG-Feedback@Urban.org.  The most recent version of State and Federal performance measures are available on the following web link:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/csbg-draft-recommendatio...

Next Steps:  UI will submit final recommendations for Federal and State performance management tools to OCS in September 2013.  Its submission will include a small set of “critical key measures” to be implemented in the short-term.  These sets of measures will be shared with the Network, along with a schedule for implementation.  Once the State and Federal measures are established, definitions of terms used in the measures and formulas for calculating the measures will be developed to assure clarity and consistency.

OCS expects to rely on State plans and annual reports as a critical source of information on implementation, and also plans to conduct grantee surveys using the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).  A baseline Federal survey was conducted in 2012, and potential follow-up surveys and/or surveys of State grantees are currently under consideration. 

Because all recommended performance measures are likely to require changes in State plans or in other data collection procedures and systems, it is expected that the measures will be implemented in phases, starting with the critical key measures, to minimize disruption.  The first year of data collection will be used as a baseline, as necessary, to establish targets for each measure.  Consequently, no assessments on performance will be made during the first year.  It is also expected that OCS will seek OMB clearance, as necessary, to make changes to the model State plan.  

To the extent resources are available, OCS and its organizational partners will provide additional webinars designed to prepare grantees for data collection and equip them to assist CSBG eligible entities to use any new data collection instruments.  The technical assistance strategy will be focused to help technical assistance providers (e.g., RPICs, State associations, and State agencies) as well as eligible entities prepare for the reporting requirements.

Conclusion

OCS and its partners have made significant progress in creating organizational standards and toward enhanced performance management for States and OCS.  However, much of the most difficult work lies ahead.  Challenges facing the Network in the next few years are:

• To safeguard support for CSBG by insuring that all CSBG eligible entities are strong financially, administratively and programmatically, and that they achieve robust and measurable improvements in the lives of clients and communities.

• To reinforce and demonstrate the role of community action as an effective and accountable partner to collectively impact the lives of low-income families.

• To have OCS, States and local CAAs understand, embrace, and use organizational standards and performance management as methods for improving service strategies, strengthening program and fiscal management, and enhancing accountability for client and community change.

• To demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of the Network’s activities in the context of a more intense federal push toward demonstrated performance using evidence and evaluation to make funding decisions.

In the context of meeting these challenges, OCS will continue to work to help the Network move toward universal implementation of performance management over the next year.   We appreciate your partnership in these efforts and are committed to an ongoing consultative process in making CSBG a national model for organizational standards and performance management.

Sincerely,

Jeannie Chaffin                                                                                 Seth Hassett
Director                                                                                             Director, Division of State Assistance
Office of Community Services                                                           Office of Community Services