The next generation of training and technical assistance support

The next generation of training and technical assistance support
May 19, 2021
5 MIN. READ
The core government programs that promote healthier families and communities—from early care and education to affordable housing and healthcare—require an army of help behind the scenes in order to run smoothly.

Large government programs such as Head Start, HUD Exchange, and the CDC’s Division of Overdose Prevention provide essential services to individuals, families, and communities throughout the nation. These programs offer services such as training and technical assistance (T/TA), online resources, and grants management support to grantees—the states, community-based organizations, and even home-based care facilities that deliver the services to people in need. 

The federal government has a vested interest in making the most of every program dollar. That’s why successfully blending technology, analytics, and transformation services with subject matter and domain expertise in training and technical assistance is so important. As technology continues to evolve, federal agencies need new strategies to deliver social services. Here are five key ingredients for success in training and technical assistance support.

1. A data-driven approach to decision making

The amount of data collected through today’s information systems, while impressive, can be complex and overwhelming, making it difficult for government institutions to manage, analyze, and effectively use it. Taking a data-driven approach to decision-making can inform program design, funding decisions, program monitoring, customer experience (CX), and employee experience (EX). It can also reduce or remove unconscious biases.

Data analysis is a critical component to the evaluation and continuous quality improvement of grantee performance. To maintain independence from the delivery of TA, the evaluation team should ideally operate outside the internal team structure. This outside (and trusted) partner can appropriately collect, analyze, and interpret feedback data and use the findings to revise and improve the scope, content, and delivery of T/TA services in real time.

2. Strong research and evaluation capabilities

Grantee support offers a goldmine of insights that you should take advantage of in support of your T/TA mission. How well are your programs performing, and what can you learn by assessing the entire landscape of grantees to determine trends, outliers, best practices, and common issues? With a robust research and evaluation practice in place, the government can tweak its system to the needs of the communities it serves. In doing so, the program will deliver improved mission outcomes while also gathering the data and insight it needs to secure continued funding. An effective partner will help you determine where your program is successful, and where (and how) you should focus on making improvements.

Casting one eye farther down the road (perhaps five, seven, or even 10 years into the future) can help grantees wrap their heads around emergencies and put systems in place to sustain their missions.

3. Embrace of emerging technologies

Emerging technologies, such as AI-powered chatbots, are moving from obscurity to prevalence in the government sector. This technology has come a long way, and now offers realistic conversational quality to users. Federal government programs—such as ICF-managed Child Welfare Information Gateway, HUD Exchange, and the DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime—are using chatbots to streamline grantee requests. Instead of having to call a hotline or complete a web form to request information, grantees can now use a chatbot to get the information they need.

In addition to providing an efficient and effective user experience, chatbots free up T/TA staff to focus on higher-value work that is more aligned to the mission. 

4. Low-code solutions

In the past, government agencies often required custom-built solutions that were expensive to maintain. Low-code technology uses simpler interfaces (e.g., drag-and-drop features) that are easier to implement and require little to no coding expertise. All T/TA programs need tools to track and manage requests from the grantees, with usability as a key feature. We built a new tool using ServiceNow for HHS’ Office of Child Care contract. It employs a low-code approach to give the agency a new tracking system and dashboards, enabling their staff to manage all TA requests happening in each region at a glance.

5. Passion for the mission

Imagine the difference between a staff that clocks in and out, and one that feels called to the mission. It’s night and day. At the end of the day, social services programs, such as Fatherhood.gov, seek to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities in need so it’s important to find a partner that is invested in your agency’s mission. 

The T/TA arm of a program is where the mission is brought to life for grantees. The right partner will lead the way in developing the tools and resources grantees need to maximize their grant dollars and serve their communities effectively. Sometimes, these tools and resources will need to be introduced in the context of an IT modernization initiative, as T/TA websites that are running on legacy systems often fail to meet the needs of grantees. Whether too clunky, too slow, or too difficult to navigate, outdated T/TA systems have a definite impact on the mission, and the right partner will know when (and what, and how) to update the IT infrastructure. It’s the staff’s passion for the mission that will fuel these efforts and, in doing so, elevate the program in the eyes of the communities it serves.

Effective grantee support requires a domain + tech focus

Early childhood education. Low-income housing. Overdose prevention. These are just a few of the many causes that community services and community-based organizations work tirelessly to support. Partners are looking for training and technical assistance programs that can provide effective solutions and insights. They want to collaborate with programs that ensure customers and communities are front and center. By choosing a partner that understands the mission objectives and IT opportunities, you’ll be in a better position to secure—and maintain—that vital support.

Meet the authors
  1. Kim McCarley, Vice President, Business Development

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