Panel Paper: Goal4 It!™: A Behavioral Science-Informed Approach to Achieving Economic Independence

Friday, November 9, 2018
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michelle Derr, Mathematica Policy Research

Employment assistance and workforce development programs, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, pair disadvantaged jobseekers with program staff to help individuals build core skills toward the goal of family-sustaining employment. Yet, research has found considerable room for improvement in the outcomes of these programs. Program staff have a unique opportunity to guide clients through a process to practice and strengthen their self-regulation skills, simply by setting goals and taking action to achieve them.

In collaboration with four employment and training programs, Mathematica researchers developed a framework and service delivery process to be used in TANF and other support programs for low-income families with an explicit focus on goal achievement and strengthening core life skills (i.e., self-regulation skills). Known as Goal4 It!™, this evidence-informed approach relies on a simple habit-forming, replicable process for guiding clients through setting a meaningful goal, breaking a goal down into manageable steps, developing specific plans to achieve each step, and regularly reviewing progress. By setting goals and taking action to achieve them, clients are practicing the skills critical to building their long-term capacity for economic independence—for example, planning, prioritization, time management, organization, flexibility, goal-directed persistence, and stress tolerance, among others. In partnership with four test sites, Goal4 It!™ has been adopted by practitioners with no additional implementation funds and no regulatory changes. These efforts are intended both to spark dialogue about innovation in social service delivery as well as to generate new evidence for the field about what works.

Using the Learn, Innovate, Improve (LI2) process, Mathematica and partner employment programs have tailored the implementation of Goal4 It!™ to several different community and program contexts. Building on an upfront assessment of the program environment’s readiness for change, the LI2 process involves a series of formative pilots—known as “road tests”—used to vet and refine the model design and implementation. Road tests focus on small-scale, iterative prototyping of the Goal4 It! model. Frontline staff and clients use the goal achievement approach and provide structured feedback on the cognitive and behavioral changes anticipated from using Goal4 It!™ to assess the feasibility and quality of implementation. These road tests have also generated valuable insights about organizational cultural change and the supervisory support necessary to successfully implement Goal4 It!™.

This presentation will discuss the catalyst for creating Goal4 It!™ as a practical solution to marginal program outcomes, the use of the LI2 process to implement and integrate the model within diverse program contexts, and the insights generated through four ongoing implementation trials with employment programs. This presentation will also highlight emerging opportunities to implement and test Goal4 It!™—through formative, descriptive, and rigorous evaluations—in a range of public programs.