About the Center of Excellence (COE)
Amplifying Community Action Innovation
About Community Action
1000+ local organizations leading change
Serving 99% of America’s counties, the Community Action network delivers life-changing services to Americans most in need. Community Action embodies the spirit of hope, connecting communities to opportunity. Through natural disasters, economic crises and global pandemics, Community Action promotes localized solutions to economic insecurity.
The Community Action network — local communities linked by a common goal: thriving people, resilient communities, and equitable opportunity for all.
About The Showcase
Spotlighting Community Action innovation
The Center of Excellence is a national training hub, engaging Community Action Agencies coast-to-coast to share innovative, high impact strategies.
Community Action works. This platform shines a light on Community Action success stories to inspire. Here, access resources to strengthen services, build community outcomes, and create family and community change in your local area.
How To Use
Adapting to your community
This platform is here for you. Check out initiatives by using the “search” tool. Filter by topic, region, state, and/or agency type. On each initiative page, you’ll find relevant info about the what, why, and how behind each project, plus resources. Use these initiatives as inspiration — they are here for you to utilize, reimagine, and/or adapt to your local community.
Also, get involved — leave a comment or shoutout on an initiative you love. Be sure to share on social media channels, too.
What is the purpose of this Showcase?
The purpose of this platform is to showcase the transformational work happening throughout the Community Action network. Through the Showcase, the Center of Excellence will disseminate details of the initiatives throughout the network. Ultimately, this platform strengthens state, regional, and national training and technical assistance (T/TA) relationships to support capacity building across the network to implement more initiatives like these.
What is a highlighted initiative?
A highlighted initiative is a strategy currently being implemented by a local Community Action Agency that models an example of high-impact, transformational work in the Community Action network.
How were these initiatives selected?
The Center of Excellence (COE) and the Regional Performance and Innovation Consortia (RPICs) identified initiatives currently implemented by local CAAs that meet the following criteria:
Required Characteristics to Include Specific Criteria/Indicators – must meet at least 1 of the provided criteria for each required characteristic Local Need Identified
The highlighted initiative has clearly identified the local need it addresses.
- Community or individual/family need related to the initiative was identified in most recent community needs assessment.
- Agency need was identified during most recent strategic planning process (or similar planning process).
Clear Role of CSBG Funds
CSBG funds have clearly been used for some purpose, at some point, in the implementation of the initiative.
- CSBG provided funding to one or more of the following related to the initiative: initiative planning, early implementation, staffing, needs assessment support, strategic planning support, data support, evaluation, or other allowable use of CSBG funds.
The initiative has a transformative impact related to the causes and/or conditions of poverty at a community level.
- If the initiative’s primary focus is community-level needs, it has the following characteristics: (1) designed to create measurable community-wide improvement (2) affecting one or more cause or condition of poverty (3) within a defined geographic area; (4) has clearly defined and measurable goals and (5) one or more strategic activities designed to achieve that goal; (6) CAA must be an active participant in the initiative with a clearly defined role in it.
- If the initiative’s primary focus is family- or agency-level needs, it must provide a statement describing how the initiative’s implementation informs community transformation and/or systems change.
The initiative is clearly based on data/evidence that demonstrate its impact.
- The initiative has quantitative/qualitative data that clearly establish its impact (as described above in “Transformative impact.”
- If the initiative has not yet developed an evidence base, there are measures currently being developed or implemented that will establish this evidence base.
The initiative addresses equity issues of particular relevance to the community because equity is relevant to all communities.
- The initiative has, and achieves, a specific goal of achieving greater racial/ethnic equity in the community.
- The initiative collects data by different demographic groups that permit the analysis of its impact on different racial/ethnic groups in the community.
The initiative includes the voice or leadership of individuals with lived experience with poverty in the community
- The initiative includes an advisory group with significant resident leadership/ participation.
- The initiative uses a specific customer satisfaction/ community input mechanism to ensure customer voice.
- The initiative uses some other process that demonstrates residents’ lived experience influences the implementation and/or evaluation of the initiative’s impact.
When submitting an initiative, an agency must demonstrate that it meets at least 90% of the Organizational Standards in order to submit an initiative for consideration.
How can I submit an initiative to be featured?
We’re so glad you’re considering submitting your innovative work to be featured. We continue to collect initiatives on a rolling basis. At this time, please contact the COE through Tayla Daniel – email@example.com. In the future, you may be able to submit your initiative directly through the platform, but not yet. Please let us know via email, and we’ll guide you through the criteria and process!
Are these initiatives the same things we report in Module 3 of the CSBG Annual Report? How is this different?
Not necessarily. This showcase of highlighted Community Action initiatives is intended to demonstrate the current, innovative work in the Community Action network and to inspire peers to continue innovating. The purpose of the showcase is to support the dissemination of best-practices and to build the capacity of the network. By contrast, Module 3 is a reporting tool that is part of the CSBG Annual Report to Congress. Its purpose is to demonstrate the outcomes achieved by the network’s leveraging of CSBG to engage in community-level work.
So many acronyms! CSBG, OCS, NCAP… what do they all mean?
- CAAs – Community Action Agencies – over 1000 local agencies nationwide addressing poverty in their local communities
- CSBG – Community Services Block Grant – The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) supports services designed to ameliorate the causes and conditions of poverty by assisting individuals and families with low-incomes and communities with services based on local needs (i.e. employment, education, and adequate housing). The funding originates at the federal level through the Office of Community Services and is distributed through state pass-through. This funding is what identifies an entity as a Community Action Agency.
- OCS – Office of Community Services – The Office of Community Services (OCS) partners with states, communities and agencies to reduce the causes of poverty, increase opportunity and economic security of individuals and families and revitalize communities. CSBG is one of their 5 federal programs and OCS also provides T/TA discretionary funding. This showcase is supported through a cooperative agreement with OCS.
- NCAP – National Community Action Partnership – a national, 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization that provides technical assistance, training, and other resources to Community Action Agencies, nonprofit and public groups funded by CSBG. NCAP currently houses the national Center of Excellence (COE).
What can my agency do if we see an initiative that we want to try to implement in our community?
The COE has several resources to help with adaptation and implementation of initiatives in different communities. First, we suggest assessing organizational capacity. We have a tool coming very soon that will help you highlight agency strengths and provide resources for improvement based on the results.
If your agency has strong capacity in several areas to take on a new initiative, we suggest using a “rapid ROMA” or “sprint” approach to implement a small part of the initiative first and test how it works in your local area. Then, as your CAA sees what parts are working or need improvement, using a Continuous Quality Improvement approach and making small improvements overtime can help the implementation process to be less overwhelming.
What determines how many initiatives are highlighted?
CAAs voluntarily elect to be highlighted by sharing information on their initiative related to criteria established by the COE… as long as initiatives align with criteria, they are able to be highlighted and will be released in phases in this platform.