By: AIF Staff
Last week at the University of Notre Dame, Speaker Paul Ryan led a virtual discussion called: Identifying Promising Models: The Padua Project and Reducing Poverty. The conversation focused on the comprehensive model of care deployed by Catholic Charities Fort Worth to help Texas families out of poverty.
Ryan was joined in conversation with Jim Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame, Heather Reynolds with Notre Dame’s Lab for Economic Opportunities, and Cindy Casey of Catholic Charities Fort Worth. Speaker Ryan has enjoyed a long relationship with Catholic Charities, visiting their facilities and talking with participants while serving as Speaker of the House.
Consistent with its mission, the discussion highlighted the American Idea Foundation’s belief that lives can be improved and public policies can be bettered by linking on-the-ground practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.
Video of the discussion is accessible here and some excerpts follow.
Ryan: Padua Project is Putting Innovative Solutions, Partnerships, and Evidence to Work
“The Padua Project is a program run by Catholic Charities [and] uses a case-management model to ending poverty. I’m a big fan of a case management model. Most importantly, they partnered with Notre Dame and the Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) to develop a randomized control trial and measure if what they were doing was accomplishing the goals that they set out to accomplish.
“Here’s the result that they achieved: A 25% increase in full time employment, a 64%, increase in housing stability, and a 53% increase in reported improvements in personal health…. And more importantly, because of the way that Catholic Charities partnered with LEO, we know that these are likely the results of this intervention. We know that we can take these results and replicate them, further seeing if we can scale for these interventions and that’s the whole point of all of this….
“What the Padua Project is doing is more than just helping individuals get a job or to improve their housing. They are helping them achieve their God-given potential and when we knit together our individual talents, we build out the common good and we build a more just society.”
Reynolds: The “Why” motivating Catholic Charities’ Padua Project
“From the Catholic Charities side, when I was a part of that team, our “why” was that we wanted to restore the dignity of the human person. Our “why” was that we believe that people deserved a way out of poverty and we believe we were doing too much that was just kind of perpetuating and making life easier for the poverty that people were facing. You know, to be honest, meeting characters where they are at works. Sometimes people have misconceptions of who non-profit folks are and the team at Catholic Charities Fort Worth is probably one of the most incredible smartest compassionate focused teams I think anybody would ever meet. Being a part of that, seeing a team that wanted to make a difference, that wanted to get into this work and sacrificed their own monetary gains to say: “No, you want to care for the least of our brothers and sisters in need and we want to do something big,” that was a real motivator to me….”
Sullivan: The Origins of a Productive Partnership between Notre Dame and Catholic Charities
“When the leadership of Catholic Charities Forth Worth came to us and said: “You want to think big? We want to really try to tackle this problem of individuals who are facing too many barriers that they can’t get themselves out of poverty.” And they told us about this agile program, which didn’t even have a name at the time. And I’ll never forget our first trip down to Catholic Charities… It was really an all-hands on deck session of thinking about how we’re going to design this program…. They have the empathy and the compassion and the understanding of the challenges that these individuals are facing on a day-to-day basis, so [Dr. Bill Evans] and I were really struck by how they were using that information and that experience to design this program. They had the innovative approach of saying: We want to measure this program that we create because we know that the only way it’s going to have a really big impact, the only way it’s going to replicate and scale is if we can prove that it works. And so, they worked with us to build the research design from the very beginning, which made it much easier to collect all the data necessary and measure the outcome demonstrated.”
Reynolds: Personalized Client Support has led to Meaningful Results for Texans in-need
“I will never forget in the early days of the Padua Project when I sat in a meeting between Catholic Charities Fort Worth and LEO and we talked about how people’s spending behaviors had really changed in one year…. The Catholic Charities Fort Worth staff said: “Oh, we know why that’s happening,” and then laid out how, when they first start working with clients, they have the clients write down their values what they value most. Then they have the clients go and start compiling how they spend their money. Then they have the client sit there and look at their values and how they spend their money and see what doesn’t come together. What the Padua Project staff have said is that exercise has made it where the clients have their own “Ah ha” moment, so they own it more. It’s not the patch of a social worker saying: “You really need to quit giving your money away.” It is the parent or a social worker saying let’s look at your values, let’s look at your finances. What do you think could be different? What do you think needs to be the same? And so, just the practices that case managers use, I think is a really strong thing and a thing that, through the qualitative research that Jim is talking about is, I think we can really start replicating.”
Reynolds: Quality Research & Collaborative Partnerships attract Local Support
“A critical piece of having the patience to walk for clients on a journey I think really matters. On the funding side, for I think both LEO and Catholic Charities Fort Worth, it’s a good example of how a partnership between researchers and local social service providers can make both parties more successful at attracting the interest of non-profit funders and government funding. There were several times early on, Bill Evans or myself would go down to Fort Worth and present to non-profit foundations in the Fort Worth community and say: “Hey, you know, here’s the research design we’ve laid out. Here’s what we’re going to measure.” And these foundations were interested in investing in their community and they invested in the Padua Project because they said: Look, this is a serious intervention and they’re going to test it and we’re going to learn about it.
“At the same time, when we work with LEO, it’s not a fee-for-service operation. We don’t charge the nonprofits for the evaluation work. Rather, it’s the quality of the research questions that we’re asking that enables us to get the funding from the federal government or from private foundations. In particular, it’s the structure of the research design. The fact that we were able to implement a randomized control trial and an impact evaluation for a comprehensive case management program, that’s a really hard thing to pull off because it’s hard to find a partner that has the capacity and interest to do that. The fact we’re able to do that, it caught the attention of a large community funder.”
Sullivan: Building on Catholic Charities’ Model & Scaling it Up
“I think a critical piece of the success of scaling up is to be able to continue to demonstrate the programming is right…. It’s critically important when we replicate this program elsewhere that we’re also measuring it and providing the same high-quality evidence that we do [with Catholic Charities Fort Worth]. Now, it’s not going to be possible in all situations to implement RCT’s, but I think a lot of this question is asking: Why is the Padua Project so successful? Is it the fact that Catholic Charities Fort Worth has a great referral network? Is it because of the emergency financial system? I think internally, there’s a lot of conversations between Leo about the mentoring component by the case manager, as that must be playing a really important role. This idea of “trust” in the relationship is critically important, so that is going to be hard to pass through randomized. And so, what we’re doing at LEO — and I think we need to do more, is to incorporate qualitative research into these RCT experiments. What that means is we brought in qualitative researchers who sit down with a client and sit down with the program managers.”
Ryan: Why Successful Poverty-Fighting Interventions make a Difference
“As Speaker, I spent a significant amount of my time working on the social safety net and one of the key things that I learned is that we just don’t have that much evidence on what works and what does not work. When the government doesn’t know what works and when it doesn’t work, we end up failing the people that we are intending to help. Scarce government dollars will go toward programs that are well intended, but that have actually failed to do anything beyond spending scarce taxpayer dollars, and that’s a shame when we create programs that don’t work. It’s not the policymakers or the service providers who suffer, it’s the single mother who needs help. It is the person who’s out of work that needs a job or it’s the young kid who needs security to face the problems of our future….
“With careful research design, we are better able to understand the particular intervention so for example, Padua appears to be most effective at helping those who are out of work, versus those who are needing more hours or higher pay. This understanding of who is most helped can be almost as useful as how you are helping those with different service providers that the Padua model uses.
“It’s important that Padua was successful for its clients, but if we can replicate the work that Catholic Charities was able to do with new organizations, then we can improve outcomes for thousands and thousands of people by understanding the causal nature of adequate information, intervention and choosing….
Sullivan: Bringing Successful Models of Case Management to the Mainstream
“The challenge is that information isn’t made accessible, and it oftentimes gets drowned out by misinformation, right? And so, a big part of what we’re doing at LEO now, and hope to build going forward, is how do we make sure that evidence like the impact of Padua Project doesn’t get buried in an academic journal? Part of what we’re doing is building strong relationships with policymakers on both sides of the aisle and at all levels of government, but I really think, getting back to your point about subsidiarity, the way you get the policy at a national level is to build the evidence at the local level.
“If we can demonstrate that it can work with Catholic Charities, is it because Catholic Charities Fort Worth is so good [or] can we replicate? We can replicate the Padua Project in, you know, a lot of the community providers in Dallas. Then let’s spread it to other cities and let’s apply it in other contexts you know for prisoner re-entry or for refugee services. This comprehensive case management model works as you build the evidence and becomes more and more compelling.”
Ryan: Evidence-Based Policymaking coming to Federal Poverty Fighting:
“[Evidence-Based policymaking is not controversial. It’s not partisan. It was designed to be that way and I think at the end of the day, in the medium term and in the not too distant future, we’re going to be able to see the dollars that the federal government provides local communities for poverty fighting will be dollars that will be directed toward proven methods that have been run through rigorous academic economic models to prove what works. That’s why I really think we’re on the cusp of being much more effective in fighting poverty. All of these dollars that are spent on fighting poverty, it has sort of just been a shotgun approach, a scattershot hoping some of it works. I think we’re going to be able to be much more precise and much more effective and therefore much more impactful.”
Casey: How Padua’s comprehensive care model helps individuals
“Padua has been developed right. We have two-person teams that are assigned to every client who comes into the program. The pieces that have been talking about: the mindset, the work, everything I talked about a few minutes ago about the cognitive development. All of that is coming in with the case manager. We also have a caseworker that kind of helps [the client] identify their resources and then connect to those resources and plan around that. So, it was set from the very beginning to be fast and funded for the extended time with the client and that long-term model that Heather said before of three to five years, that makes the program really where they are for the long haul.”
Ryan: Taking Lessons Learned from Case Management Research, Applying Them to Opportunity Zones
“I also worked at making sure that Opportunity Zone legislation made it through in the law and at the American idea Foundation, where we do a lot of work on Opportunity Zones, we’re also working on trying to make sure that after Opportunity Zones are well-deployed, meet their [communities’] needs. Erie, Pennsylvania, for example, is what I think is one of the more successful Opportunities Zones and what we at the American Idea Foundation are trying to do is encourage through measurements and through other means, Opportunity Zone funds to get moving on this front.
“What I mean when I say that is there are billions of dollars now that are being tapped to invest in a quarter of the poorest census tracts in America right now. This investment is going to provide development to build housing, factories, and retail, all of these sorts of things. What we’re trying to do is encourage these opportunity funds to also partner with local charities.
“These are private sector investors, who are investing in these communities, and I believe that [their] being made aware of the kind of rigorous, scientific evaluations that RCTs and LEO [are doing] with programs like Padua, and [that they] have already done, there’s sort of a ready-made plug and play approach to be taken in these Opportunity Zones where while they’re deploying their capital on a bigger project. There are also incentives to deploy capital to programs like non-profits who are doing case management to help provide the workforce that they’re going to need for the investment they’re deploying in this Opportunity Zone…. And where we see the successful models like Erie, it is private capital, local governments, foundations and charities, all working together in the census tract with all of this money that’s coming in and deploying an all-hands-on-deck strategy to revitalize, to help the people in the area, and take advantage of the new investment and the job opportunities that are occurring there. So, I think this model is really well-timed. I think this model is something that can be deployed over the next handful of years in these Opportunities Zones.”