Set Up for Success: Strengthening A Community Organization’s Capacity to Grow
July 27, 2022 – Community reentry organizations, whose staff worked on the front lines when many dialed in from home during the pandemic, understand what their communities need and what works when it comes to comprehensive reentry services. These staff members have a visceral understanding of the issues that impact people, families, and communities caught in the criminal legal system. They are best situated to solve some of the biggest challenges when it comes to reentry.
And funders have noticed. Many are directing investments into community-led solutions that address the tangle of challenges for people after prison.
Funding Alone Isn’t Enough
Funding structures often narrowly focus on programming while overlooking an organization’s capacity to do the work and the implementation infrastructure to support viable and sustainable growth.
In Colorado, many programs were funded through community reinvestments made by the state legislature to address some of the most intractable challenges of reentry:
- family reunification
- mental health
- medical needs
- healing from trauma
How the Latino Coalition Supports Growth
Since 2014, a number of Colorado-based community organizations have benefited from a unique intermediary model that intentionally builds an organization’s capacity to serve the community. The Latino Coalition—a non-profit organization that ACJI works closely with—acts as an intermediary to support the capacity building of grassroots reentry organizations.
More specifically, the Latino Coalition shows organizations how to collect data, monitor performance, and utilize state resources with a high degree of accountability. The Latino Coalition also helps to bridge communication efforts and build partnerships between community leaders and corrections agencies.
As a result, participating reentry organizations are exceeding original expectations and are now faced with the consequences of their own success; rapid growth and pressure to replicate and scale. The challenges are very real, complex, and overwhelming. For this reason, ACJI partners with the Latino Coalition to instruct on the science of implementation to prepare and support grass root community organizations to expand their programming without losing their impact.
How ACJI Supports Longevity
ACJI’s Community Implementation Essentials program is one example of an ACJI resource geared toward leaders who want to strengthen their organizational capacity to grow, replicate successful efforts, and sustain the long-term impact of their program models for people and communities. Implementation Essentials provides a lens to understand how to operationalize and measure a program’s high-impact core activities using our 5 Dynamics of Effective Implementation™ framework. This series of tools applies the science of implementation to create alignment between people, data, organizational culture, leadership, and feedback loops.
In addition, we have found that community-based organizations benefit greatly from learning from each other. To support this cross-organizational learning, participants of the Community Implementation Essentials program are invited to participate in what we call a “community of practice” where leaders from different organizations gather to share learnings, which helps them to prioritize opportunities to strengthen internal processes that lead to scaling successful outcomes.
Currently, leaders from 14 organizations are participating. While so many leaders in new and growing organizations are busy working “in” the organization, these participants are getting an opportunity to carve out space to work “on” the organization during their organization’s rapid growth stages.
To Sum Up
While many states are beginning to reinvest resources into community-led strategies for public safety and wellness, much spending is limited to programming costs only, with no resources dedicated to building the capacity for these same organizations to grow their infrastructure in healthy, viable, and sustainable ways. Community organizations need support for their own development. They need resources dedicated to building their capacity to grow without sacrificing outcomes and stretching staff to their limits.
Registration for the next Community Implementation Essentials program is now open. Learn more here.