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Root Cause Research and Assessments

The Peer Performance Exchange


Root Cause Research and Assessments


The Peer Performance Exchange


How can we establish a standardized assessment and capacity-building network that enables non-profit organizations to measure performance, strengthen program quality, and improve more people’s lives?



The Peer Performance Exchange (PPE) was created in order to increase the impact of non-profit programs focusing on the fields of youth career development and college access and success. The participating non-profit programs were interested in better understanding best practices in the field, receiving support on how to implement those best practices, and connecting with a network of peers doing similar work to share learnings to improve program quality.


Based on learnings gathered from assessing over 100 nonprofits using standardized best practices and outcomes indicators, Root Cause launched the Peer Performance Exchange in 2013 with funding from the Longfield Family Foundation. PPE was designed to provide an independent assessment of participating members using standardized indicators, aggregate benchmarking data to enable partners to understand trends in the field and their performance against peers, and a forum in which members could share and learn from one another in a number of in-person and online settings.

In creating the PPE, Root Cause conducted national and local research on the fields of youth career development and college access and success to better understand the issues youth were facing, core components of proven models addressing those issues, and best practices within the core components to achieve desired program outcomes. The best practices and related indicators were used to assess the strength of the programs and identify opportunities for improvement. The two categories of best practices used for the assessment include:

  1. Organizational health, which focused on financial sustainability, strong management and governance, and effective performance measurement practices.
  2. Program quality, which focused on the strength of the program model, effective implementation, and outcomes achieved by participants.

Root Cause then facilitated discussions with the leadership of each nonprofit to review the findings of the assessment, deepen their understanding of recommendations for improvement, and provide materials to support their development efforts.

There were two Peer Performance Exchanges in which nonprofits could participate, one focused on youth and career development and the other on college access and success.

The cohorts consisted of the following organizations:

Youth Career Development Group

ABCD – SummerWorks Program
Boys and Girls Club of Boston – Life After the Club
Future Chefs
Germantown Neighborhood Center – Teens Building Solid Futures
Hull Lifesaving Museum – Maritime Apprentice Program
MissionSAFE – Youth Leadership Service Corps
UTEC Lowell – Workforce Development and Social Enterprise
Year Up

College Access and Success Group

Athletic Scholars Advancement Program (ASAP), CA
Bayview Association for Youth, CA
College Bound Dorchester, MA
East Bay College Fund, CA
East Harlem Tutorial Program, NY
East Oakland Youth Development Center, CA
Freedom House, MA
Massachusetts General Hospital: Center for Community Health Improvement, MA
Student Program for Academic and Athletic Transitioning (SPAAT), CA
Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, NY
StreetSquash, NY
The First Tee of Metropolitan New York, NY
The Opportunity Network, NY
The Steppingstone Foundation, MA
Young Scholars Program, CA

Goals & Results

Root Cause team members conducted individual assessments on organizational health and program quality for each nonprofit participating in the cohorts. Using over 150 indicators, we produced Independent Program Analysis Reports that summarized the assessment, benchmarked programs against their peers in the Exchange, and provided recommendations to implement best practices.

The Peer Performance Exchange aimed to help its members achieve their goals through an “assess, analyze, support, and improve” model. Nonprofits gained an in-depth analysis report of their organizational health and program quality, recommendations for action, presentations and reports to share with funders and key stakeholders, and access to a growing network of organizations with resources. Non-profit partners benefitted from the codification and sharing of best practices, expediting knowledge dissemination, and networking. They learned from the reports and from one another in a community of practice as they charted strategies for continuous quality improvement.

The Peer Performance Exchange also helped donors make informed grant-making decisions based on organizations’ capability to deliver and measure impact.


Nine Nonprofits Join the Next Wave of Performance Measurement: Root Cause's Peer Performance Exchange

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Boston Business Journal
Emerging Leader - Colette Stanzler of Root Cause

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About the Partner

Root Cause Research and Assessments

Root Cause launched its Research and Assessments work in 2006 through the leadership of Colette Stanzler. Colette leveraged her experience from the business sector on how data is used to inform investor expectations of performance. The Research and Assessments team created social issue reports on best practices across a range of focus areas for nonprofits.