The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Council has a tall order – prevent youth from entering the justice system or from penetrating deeper into the justice system. The goal cannot be met through program implementation alone. The systems serving the youth must change how they work together (or begin working together) in order to meet the needs of “at-risk” youth.
In 2013, the JJDP Council recognized the need for an alternative approach to addressing “status offenses” (only a crime because of a youth’s age) like truancy (missing too much school). They funded four truancy demonstration pilots in Colorado to work across systems in order to prevent and intervene in truant behavior.
Our new report, Evaluation of Truancy Prevention and Early Intervention takes a retrospective look at the four pilots and includes reflections from stakeholders in schools, courts and the justice system. This led to our Collaborative Framework to Improve Educational Attainment (below), which identifies critical areas and components Colorado’s broader juvenile field must address to work together to improve school engagement.
At Spark, we understand the importance of connecting theoretical frameworks with on-the-ground perspectives to ensure our work is actionable.
We facilitated a dialogue with the JJDP Council on the evaluative findings and asked whether it resonated, what was missing, and how it could be built upon. We were able to map the framework to the reality of the stakeholders needs because of our participatory approach (see Spark’s toolkit on Tools for Engaging Nontraditional Voices). Their input made clear that there is room for the framework to not only serve as a guide to improving school engagement, but more broadly to meet the needs of at-risk youth through a collaborative approach.
All of the rapid change in the health landscape allows for exciting opportunities to engage stakeholders and, therefore, create solutions that are as equitable as they are innovative. However, engaging these voices effectively requires a commitment to the process to ensure they aren’t just token representation, and that their perspectives and lived experiences truly inform the process. This level of engagement can be challenging, to be sure, but the effort is well worth it in improved outcomes.
This month, we are highlighting some of the work we’re doing with two health-related projects actively involving the stakeholder voice:
Both projects seek to improve health outcomes. To do this, these projects rely heavily on meaningfully engaging stakeholders in the process to inform the work, identify needed shifts, and ensure the work is driving toward high-impact outcomes.
Backbone. Place-based approach. Cross-sector. Systems change. In our work, and the work of our partners, we often get caught up in the world of jargon and sector-specific terminology without realizing it. We can get so caught up in our day to day that we forget what these terms mean to us, our work, and the people for whom we are working to create meaningful change.
The focus of this month’s newsletter is systems change, reflecting specifically on what that means to us and how we integrate that perspective in all our work. Systems change means that, instead of creating a new program or policy, we look at how all the elements of a system are connected and then find leverage points that can help shift parts of the system in a sustained, coordinated way over time. This sounds like a heavy lift, and it is. Systems change does not happen overnight and it can be easy to get discouraged along the way. But, we can also identify and achieve small wins that move us closer to that bigger goal, we can learn along the way and use that learning to adjust our strategies, and we can engage new voices that not only help strengthen the process, they can lead to better outcomes. We have some great resources in this newsletter, including three blogs that look specifically at the idea of systems change, including exploring some tools and techniques to help reach our goals. Read more.