How Nonprofits & Social Service Providers Can Survive the Pandemic and Thrive Post-Recovery
About this Field Notes series
Over 47,000 children under the age of 5 live in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties in South Carolina. Despite numerous programs and service providers, more than half of the children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2018 did not meet kindergarten readiness standards in phonics, numeracy, and social and emotional development. With funding from the Duke Endowment, Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC) and Root Cause are partnering to strengthen a cohort of local early childhood service providers with continuous quality improvement (CQI) coaching.
This series tells the story of this Initiative and explores how CQI can be use to improve outcomes for young children and their families in the Tri-County region
CQI in Tri-County: Progress Report Part 3
From surviving the pandemic to thriving post-recovery
In parts one and two of this series, we talked about how Root Cause and the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC) went about developing and launching the TCCC Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Initiative, and how CQI can be useful to early childhood direct service providers. We launched the CQI Initiative in November 2019 — and just four months into coaching, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and forced all of us to pivot.
All eight of our CQI cohort programs directly serve the most vulnerable children and families in the Tri-County region of South Carolina, which include Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston Counties. When the pandemic hit, these communities faced mounting challenges beyond what they had already been experiencing, as schools and businesses closed down and working parents scrambled for childcare. Programs worked overtime to distribute food and essential items, share resources with families, transitionto online programming, and apply for emergency grants to fund it all. Internally, program staff also faced the challenge of shifting to remote work while balancing childcare and family responsibilities.
Why focus on CQI during a pandemic?
Many of our cohort programs have found CQI to be a useful tool to navigate the challenges of delivering services in a pandemic. Rather than being just “one more thing to do,” CQI coaching has provided the tools necessary to approach new pandemic challenges. The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles, which are core to Root Cause’s CQI approach, allow programs to make pandemic adaptations with intention by building planning, testing, and reflection into programs’ crisis responses. Some programs chose to focus on pandemic-induced challenges within their PDSA cycles, while others took the opportunity to focus on existing areas for improvement.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic influenced our CQI work?
While Root Cause coaches have not been able to meet in-person with their programs during the pandemic, our CQI approach has largely remained the same. A personalized CQI approach is more important than ever, seeing as each program is responding to different demands and challenges during the pandemic. As coaches, our Root Cause team has emphasized flexibility in the CQI process, in order to respond to programs’ needs and help them respond to the needs of the communities they serve.
How are programs adapting their approach to service delivery?
For many programs, adapting to Covid-19 times has meant moving service delivery online where possible – virtual case management, telehealth, and remote support groups are some examples of this. During the spring lockdown, some programs were forced to cut services that couldn’t be delivered virtually, or to reduce staff hours to ensure Covid safety in the office. Many programs have emphasized sharing resources online and expanding their social media presence to reach community members virtually. Programs have worked to virtually maintain community partnerships and taken advantage of halts in programming to build in extra support for staff members, such as a regular staff wellness and feedback survey. Additionally, programs have collaborated to pursue emergency resources together and strengthened referral processes to maximize supports for families.
How do program providers shift from surviving the pandemic to thriving post-recovery?
Nearly ten months into the pandemic, many programs have found new ways to support children and families in a Covid world. But as we look towards the future, many programs and organizations, including Root Cause, are asking ourselves, “How do we shift from surviving to thriving post-recovery?” From our perspective, many of the innovations that have emerged from the pandemic should be here to stay — monthly staff surveys, flexible tele-services for communities, and accessibility-friendly porch drop-offs are all adaptations that can help programs better serve community members even in a non-pandemic world. Our cohort programs are using CQI practices to take note of the unexpected insights that have emerged from the Covid crisis and have found CQI to be a helpful, deliberate, and step-by-step process to guide their post-recovery problem-solving process.