Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-sufficiency, 2007-2017

Project Overview

The Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) project is testing strategies to promote employment and self-sufficiency among economically disadvantaged families. At the beginning of the project period, the ISIS team consulted with over 250 stakeholders in order to identify promising intervention strategies for evaluation. From these discussions, consensus emerged that the evaluation should focus on a relatively wide population of low-income parents (not limited to TANF recipients); that ISIS should study interventions with potential for substantial effects on earnings and income rather than just modest effects; and that ISIS should prioritize strategies focused on skills development, as well as related financial and other supports.

Based on stakeholder input, and taking into account the presence of programs suitable for evaluation, the ISIS team has come to focus on career pathways as the main intervention framework to study. Career pathways consist of a series of connected education and training steps paired with related supports. Steps along the pathway lead to employment in a specific sector or occupation but can also lead to further training. Examples include basic and sectoral bridge programs to semi-skilled jobs; short-term certificate programs; and longer-term certificate and associate's degree programs. The pathway allows individuals to achieve employment and progressively advance over time. ISIS is focusing especially on career pathways models that comprehensively integrate education and training, employment, and support strategies. For more information on career pathways, see Career Pathways as a Framework for Program Design and Evaluation: A Working Paper from The Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) Project.

Nine partner organizations from across the country that are operating promising career pathways programs will be evaluated as part of ISIS. These organizations are Des Moines Area Community College (Prepared Learner Program), the I-BEST Program in select colleges in Washington State, Instituto del Progresso Latino (Carreras en Salud), Madison Area Technical College (Center for Adult Learning), Pima Community College (Pathways to Healthcare), San Diego Workforce Partnership (Bridge to Employment), Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (Health Careers for All) and Year Up. The ISIS team is currently randomly assigning participants as part of the impact evaluation and implementation and cost-benefit analyses. Partner organizations will also benefit from ongoing technical assistance and facilitated peer-to-peer interaction and communication to create an environment of learning, creativity, and innovation.

ISIS is partnering with ACF’s Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program to evaluate three ACF-funded career pathways programs in the health sector.

ISIS is being conducted by Abt Associates in collaboration with subcontractors from The Urban Institute, George Washington University, Berkeley Policy Associates, BCT Partners, National Governors' Association, American Public Human Services Association, and National Conference of State Legislatures.

The points of contact are Molly Irwin and Brendan Kelly.

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