Poster Paper: A Multi-Method Evaluation of Client Well-Being From a Community-Based Outreach Organization

Saturday, November 9, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tanya Stepasiuk, Lisa Kalimon, Ryan Kling, Ryan McLane, Ana Maria Sanchez Rodriguez, Bukola Usidame and Ryan Whalen, University of Massachusetts, Boston
A unique service delivery model that focuses on client strengths in conjunction with volunteer college student advocates may help increase objective and subjective measures of well-being in individuals in challenging situations. This, in turn, could help the well-being of entire families by extension. A team of researchers, PhD graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Boston, engaged with LIFT-Boston, a community-based organization that provides social services and referrals to social services for at-risk individuals aged 18 or more in the Boston area to research these issues.  

LIFT-Boston’s model includes no eligibility requirements for their clients. The organization uses a strength-based case management framework. Advocates act as “life coaches” for their clients, setting goals and scheduling regular meetings to help clients with their social needs. Services are delivered with advocates and clients sitting side-by-side at desks or computers.

The research team borrowed from multiple disciplines to structure a multi-pronged research agenda. First, the team used a strategy from business management, value-focused thinking. The team worked closely with LIFT-Boston stakeholders to identify meaningful research questions.  Through this process, the research team identified a primary research question that addresses objective and subjective well-being. Next, the research team evaluated the available well-being literature from psychology and strength-based case management literature from social work to devise a survey of all LIFT-Boston clients. Finally, the team engaged in a literature review in the field of education to help LIFT-Boston understand whether changes in well-being helped the children of the adults engaged in services. As LIFT-Boston has engaged in a place based strategy partnership with the City of Boston that focuses on increasing student achievement, it was important for LIFT-Boston to understand the connections of well-being and student achievement.

In order to gather data, the research team fielded an anonymous, self-administered client survey that includes objective measures of well-being such as housing and food security, and subjective measures of well-being through a survey of personal growth. This was paired with available data from LIFT-Boston’s case management system, allowing the team to examine the initial needs of LIFT clients, LIFT client characteristics, and the frequency and duration of client engagement with LIFT. The survey was fielded by advocates during each client meeting from late February to early May, 2013.  Concurrent with the collection of survey data, members of the team engaged current clients in semi-structured interviews to validate survey data and to uncover mechanisms that led to changes in well-being. The team is current analyzing data, but preliminary analysis from the qualitative data collection indicates a strong affinity with the service delivery model and increased subjective well-being in the small sample. 

The field of Public Policy can benefit from borrowing multiple strategies and research areas from other disciplines. Non-profits are experimenting with service delivery models that potentially increase self-efficacy and other subjective measures of well-being. These dynamics likely have implications for entire families, including school-age children.