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Summer Archives

Daisy Coles

- Root Cause


This past summer, I worked with Root Cause, a 501(c)(3) non-profit consulting firm based in Boston, Massachusetts. The organization uses collective action models and evidence- driven approaches to help people achieve milestones in each stage of life and enable their success. I worked on Phase 2 of the State Street Technical Assistance (SSTA) project, entitled Capacity Building for Program Quality Improvement. This project, funded by State Street Foundation, involved guiding program quality improvement coaching and peer learning workshops for a cohort of ten Boston-based non-profit organizations. The goals of this project were threefold: to improve program quality for cohort organizations, increase their capacity to incorporate changes through continuous quality improvement (CQI) cycles and to increase peer learning and deepen coaching through these cycles. My work was split into four key components: program design, workshops, coaching and the development of the Social Service Quality (SSQ) Framework.


Over the first few weeks, we conducted introductory capacity building interviews with each organization to guide the design of the program and help match programs with coaches. After this, I collected and analyzed the qualitative interview data. I spearheaded the synthesis of the information into common themes to identify areas of priority, such as peer workshop and coaching topics, and workshop and coaching delivery. This ensured we designed a program that was relevant to the interests of the cohort members. In addition, after the interview, each cohort organization received introductory materials including an ‘Introduction to CQI’ video, a Key Concepts Reference sheet and a CQI tool guide, which I co-created. The SSTA project was the pilot for this type of framework iteration so feedback on these SSQ tools will help improve resources for subsequent cohorts. The content of the tool guide was based on two research briefs I wrote on Referrals & Partnership Management and Data & Measurement Capacity. These briefs touched on best practices for how to collect and use meaningful data and how to effectively engage staff teams in program quality improvement efforts.


During my seventh week, we held the SSTA program kick-off. This was the first event that all the grantee organizations attended simultaneously. Therefore, we aimed to foster a sense of community, build understanding and enthusiasm for program involvement, and ensure cohort members understood the roles of the Root Cause team. We had group share-outs where organizations discussed what brought them to the program and what they were looking for from cohort participation. From these candid discussions, I assessed the cohort members to form true “peer” subgroups among members based on their size, focus, budget, and staff.


Long-term, my work with Root Cause will allow for stronger program design for future cohorts, sustained CQI practices and processes, and tighter coordination among programs serving similar populations in the Greater Boston area. I had a wonderful time working with Root Cause. I am so grateful for how welcoming the team was despite our remote environment, and I am excited to witness the amazing things they accomplish in the future!