The Right Touch at Learning Center North

Earlier this week, we shared the story of how the Department of Community and Human Services has used line of business planning in order to develop more effective, collaborative, and customer-focused services.

Increased collaboration around common challenges and opportunities has also helped the team spot best practices that can serve as models among programs throughout the department. Core elements of successful programs can be replicated regardless of division or target demographic.

As DCHS looked across its various programs, they saw a best practice example in data-driven programs that deliver the right level of services to individuals, based on the skill sets needed by employers and a strengths-based understanding of customers. They now call this the “right touch” for serving different individuals.

Programs like this have achievement rates that far outpace the national average for similar programs. One of these successful programs, Learning Center North in Shoreline (LCN), originated the “right touch thinking.”

LCN serves youth ages 16 to 21 who want to earn their GED and go on to college, technical training and employment.

LCN has a retention rate nearly 10 times the national average:

LCN achievement rates

LCN’s “right touch” serves students with individualized approaches that have been successful with similar students, especially struggling students, as opposed to delivering a “one size fits all” package.

Guru Dorje, who leads LCN, explains the right-touch mentality, “Our motto is, ‘value driven and data supported.'” For Dorje, the goal is success for each student, not simply meeting the requirements of a grant or beating the federal baseline. He relies on deep data dives to answer, “Who is Learning Center North not working for and why is it not working?”

Dorje emphasizes that “right touch” is more than a simple matter of finding solutions in the data. The whole organization must devote resources to these individualized solutions and develop trust among its workers that they will be supported and developed as they change how they do the work from that “one size fits all” way to a more individualized service that depends on the expertise of the workers.

“Data isn’t only quantitative,” says Dorje. “What does success look like? What does it feel like? What environment do we want to work in? Is it something we are proud of? We need to define that in a consensus discussion.”

DCHS wants to incorporate this “right touch” approach in all its programs, though all understand that it will take time, resources, and commitment at all levels of the organization.

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