Manna Food Center (Manna) based in Montgomery County, Maryland has a mission of ending hunger in the area through food distribution, education and advocacy; the organization works on behalf of more than 70,000 county residents who experience hunger and food insecurity.
Manna, which had recently completed an intensive strategic planning process focused on aligning the organization’s vision, mission and programmatic work, engaged with Tricycle to help them implement their strategic plan, a major component of which was to make the nonprofit’s work more constituent centered.
Manna leadership understood that strategic planning should be supported by just as strong implementation planning. Leadership knew the organization needed to: i) think about the reality in which their higher level planning was taking place; ii) build managerial capacity to oversee and drive the work forward. They wanted staff to have both a road map (the strategic plan) as well as the ability to use it (through implementation planning).
Throughout the engagement, Tricycle focused on one of its core principles – that program staff have a great deal of expertise, but need ongoing support to help them deliver strong programs. Staff particularly need to build capacity in the area of understanding implementation, both building on what works and addressing what doesn't.
Tricycle’s work with clients consists of four steps: needs assessment; action planning; evaluation and technical assistance.
Through the needs assessment process, Tricycle learned that staff required assistance to help them plan, organize, and proactively and precisely track their work. As part of action planning, Tricycle held multiple one-on-one coaching sessions with 4 key staff members, representing the full spectrum of program activities. Tricycle used the action planning process to help each staff member develop priorities and an annual implementation plan, with a particular focus on how the work could be sequenced in a constituent centered way. By working one-on-one, Tricycle developed an in-depth understanding of individual staff responsibilities and planning knowledge, and then provided granular, customized capacity building – meeting staff where they were.
Tricycle’s evaluation work centered on helping staff develop metrics they could use to track implementation plan progress; both metrics of success (if X happens I know my plan is progressing as expected) as well as red flags (if Y happens I know I need to make adjustments) were selected. The technical assistance component of the work consisted of developing online tools and training materials to make implementation tracking systematic, transparent and easy to do.
The goal of all components of the work with Manna was to develop staff capacity to implement with quality. To help staff not simply go through the steps in their implementation plans, but instead have a data driven understanding of whether these steps were producing expected results, and based on this understanding to course correct as needed, in a timely way.
Via coaching and training from Tricycle, Manna staff went from feeling unprepared to plan and use metrics, to understanding how they could use data to both proactively plan for and track program implementation.