Case Study of a Collaborative Approach to Improving Community-Based Services for People with Low Income: Community Caring Collaborative

Publication Date: September 2, 2021
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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

This case study describes the Community Caring Collaborative (CCC), the backbone organization of a network of community organizations and individuals focused on improving the lives of people and families with low incomes in Washington County, Maine. The CCC supports 45 nonprofit and state government organizations in a variety of ways and brings them together to solve emerging issues facing Washington County.

This case study is part of the State TANF Case Studies project, which is designed to expand the knowledge base on innovative approaches to help people with low incomes, including TANF recipients, prepare for and engage in work and increase their overall stability. Mathematica and its subcontractor, MEF Associates, were contracted by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to develop descriptive case studies of nine innovative state and local programs. The programs were chosen through a scan of the field and discussions with stakeholders. TANF practitioners and staff of other programs can learn about innovative practices through the case studies. The studies also can expand policymakers’ and researchers’ understanding of programs that support people’s success in work and highlight innovative practices to explore in future research.

Purpose

The purpose of this case study is to describe the CCC in detail and highlight its key features: where it operates and its context; whom it serves; what services the CCC provides; how it is organized and funded; how it assesses its performance; and promising practices and remaining challenges. The case study concludes with a spotlight section on Family Futures Downeast, a two-generation program designed by the CCC and its partners.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • The CCC’s main approach to serving people with low incomes is to build collaborative community initiatives to address emerging needs. 
  • The CCC’s primary services are convening groups of community service providers or members to build trusting relationships, collaborate, and share information; incubating programs to address emerging community needs; providing training and technical assistance to partner staff on various topics, including how to implement CCC-incubated programs with fidelity; and operating core programs that support multiple partners; for example, programs that remove financial barriers for partners’ participants or cross-sector initiatives.
  • Promising practices include building collaboration across diverse organizations, designing and implementing participant-centered programs, building the capacity of partner organizations, and providing flexible funding for activities designed to remove barriers.

Methods

To select programs for case studies, the study team, in collaboration with ACF, first identified approaches that showed promise in providing employment-related services to individuals and linking them to wraparound supports, such as child care and transportation. The next step was to hold initial discussions with program leaders to learn more about their programs and gauge their interest in being featured in one of the case studies. Once the list of programs was narrowed, the project team, in collaboration with ACF, selected the final set of case study programs to reflect diversity in geography and focus population.

Two members of the research team visited the CCC office in Machias and an FFD program location in Calais. The two-and-a-half day visit took place in February 2020. The team conducted semi-structured interviews with five staff members from the CCC, four staff members from FFD, and nine staff members from the partner organizations. Team members also conducted in-depth interviews with two participants of the FFD program, reviewed anonymized case files for two other FFD participants, and observed two convenings at the CCC office. The team held a follow-up telephone call with a program leader in July 2020 to learn how the CCC responded to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Citation

Eddins, K., and K. Joyce (2021). “Case study of a collaborative approach to improving community-based services for people with low income: Community Caring Collaborative.” OPRE Report #2021-71, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.