Adding Up Models for Change: Initial Findings from the Models for Change Database
Published Dec 9, 2011, Patrick Griffin, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Models for Change was deliberately designed to be wide-ranging—to support state and local reformers in a variety of settings, working in variety of issue areas, and taking a variety of approaches. By funding reform efforts that acknowledged and reflected the complex variations in the nation’s juvenile justice systems, Models for Change sought to generate a broad and flexible range of system reform models. But this strategy makes it challenging even to document the activities of the initiative’s network of partners, let alone to track and quantify all that they have accomplished.
In 2009, the Foundation engaged a management consulting firm, Bennett Midland LLC, to design a new kind of management tool for Models for Change: a database that could serve as a comprehensive inventory of the initiative’s investments and activities, a record of progress for grants initiative-wide, and a source for analytical data to inform ongoing management decisions as the initiative progresses.This management tool would combine and relate data on the characteristics of all Models for Change grants and grantees with detailed information on the varieties of reform work the grants supported and the concrete changes they helped produce. In effect, it would classify, sort, and aggregate Models for Change—the whole array of its investments, activities and accomplishments—so that the Foundation and its partners could better assess and understand the ways it has contributed to juvenile justice systems reform.
The Models for Change Database that resulted is an experimental prototype, with the usual bugs and inconsistencies. It is also a work in progress, with information from multiple sources continually being entered and edited, cleaned and analyzed. But it has now been in use long enough, and is sufficiently populated with data, to yield some useful preliminary insights into Models for Change.