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Project Match has operated a community-based employment program for unemployed and underemployed Chicagoans since 1985. One of the hallmarks of the program is open eligibility: anyone in the community who attends a two-hour orientation, no matter their level of job-readiness, can receive services—there are no eligibility criteria. The other hallmark of the program is a long-term commitment to participants: people can receive services for as long as they need them, as they move toward steady employment and family-supporting jobs.

In the late 1990s, Project Match began offering technical assistance to organizations interested in operating a community-based employment program based on the principles of open eligibility and multi-year services. Clients have included organizations that never previously operated an employment program, as well as organizations that wanted to improve an existing program.

Open eligibility and multi-year services require that an organization address a complex set of administrative and operational questions, and Project Match’s technical assistance focuses on these questions within the context of the client’s particular organizational structure:

  • What different service statuses (and related protocols) are necessary to reflect people’s fluctuating needs over time—that is, as they move back and forth over the years between periods of stability and needing assistance?
  • How does a program keep people attached over a multi-year period, so that they come back for services when they need them?
  • When it comes to program accountability, what are the benchmarks that indicate people’s incremental progress from month to month and year to year?
  • How can a program systematically track these benchmarks?
  • Most programs have multiple funders, each with different grant requirements and performance measures; how can a program facilitate reporting and compliance?
In Project Match’s experience, the right management information system is essential when offering services over a multi-year period. Having developed a tracking system in the mid-1980s for its own use, Project Match is currently creating a new, more user-friendly system that will be available for purchase by community-based organizations. The new tracking system will include a host of features to support efficient and effective program operations:
  • The system will track services rendered by staff as well as outcomes achieved by participants; it will also capture demographic data.
  • The system will automatically prompt staff to follow established protocols regarding program-initiated contact (e.g., when to check in with a participant), service-status changes (e.g., when to move a participant from active to inactive status or from regular to intermittent status), and other aspects of service delivery.
  • The system will generate monthly printouts with aggregate data on services and outcomes; aggregate data will also be available in various categories, including by funder or by specific demographic characteristics.
  • In addition to the monthly reports, the system will be able to generate longitudinal data on each individual, beginning at program entry.

With these and other features, the new Project Match tracking system can serve as the backbone of a community-based employment program, supporting a range of operational functions, from daily service delivery to funder accountability.

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Pathways is a case management system developed specifically for state and local welfare agencies. While it shares many principles with Project Match’s community-based employment model, it is a separate initiative, intended to increase welfare recipients’ engagement in activities that lead to economic and family stability and to keep recipients moving each month toward their individual goals. Pathways is currently being used at sites in several states, most prominently New York.

The Pathways System has four components:

  1. A monthly activity diary, which facilitates development of individualized plans combining activities that address work, family, and personal issues
  2. A monthly group meeting for welfare recipients where reviewing progress and making the next month’s plan take place
  3. Monthly case review and debriefing sessions for agency staff to guide planning and service delivery
  4. A computerized tracking system that captures each individual’s monthly goals and progress
Based on principles of human development, Pathways offers welfare recipients beneficial options within the parameters of the welfare system’s rules:

  • The opportunity to start “where you are” and progress incrementally toward individual goals
  • The chance to use activities performed in the roles of parent and community member as work preparation, in addition to standard work-prep activities like education/training and job search
  • Thoughtful feedback and planning assistance every month from agency staff
  • A forum for peer support through the monthly group meetings
For welfare caseworkers, the case management system offers:
  • A group structure that enables them to have monthly face-to-face contact with their entire caseload
  • Strategies for engaging both nonexempt and exempt welfare recipients in meaningful and productive activities
  • Tools for thinking more broadly about how welfare recipients can meet the federal work requirement
  • Tools for developing and revising individualized monthly plans with welfare recipients
  • Increased monitoring capabilities
  • A team-oriented approach that fosters collaboration among agency staff and also with partner agencies such as workforce development and child welfare
Pathways can be used with the full TANF and GA caseloads. Many of the welfare agencies currently using Pathways have targeted the system for use with the most fragile or reluctant welfare recipients, including those who are exempt from the federal work requirement for medical reasons, those who are concurrently involved in the child welfare system, and those who are on a sanction for failing to meet the federal work requirement. Though as yet untried, Pathways also has potential for other populations involved with government systems, such as individuals on probation or families in public housing.

Pathways is available for purchase from Project Match. It can be purchased only in conjunction with a training package. A Project Match Pathways team conducts training at the agency site.

 

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This website was created with funding from the Joyce Foundation
Copyright © 1999–2013 by Project Match–Families in Transition Association
Photographs by John Brooks and M. E. Majeske
Site design and maintenance by Halla Motawi and Jacque Ames
Last revised on October 31, 2013