Case Study: Transitioning through Challenges
This month, we profile our work with the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living. Theirs is an example of a dedicated and hard-working team facing the usual challenges that come with moving through growth, working with strained budgets, and navigating changing regulatory policies, all while providing the highest standard of service to their clients.Advancing Opportunities for People with Disabilities The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) assists people living with disabilities in leading productive self-directed lives. Founded in 1981, MCIL provides clients in the seven-county metro area with independent living skills, advocacy, housing referral, personal care attendant (PCA) services, and more. MCIL also provides a transition program for children and young adults living with disabilities. The majority of MCIL’s employees and board members are individuals with disabilities who are committed to promoting the Independent Living (IL) philosophy through innovative projects and services. As one of eight centers for independent living in Minnesota, MCIL served nearly 36,000 clients in 2013.
Addressing Challenges In 2014, MCIL’s board of directors hired Strategic Consulting & Coaching to conduct an organizational assessment. The board had already identified several issues and needed to determine if they were consistent throughout the organization and indeed they were, according to MCIL board member, Ellie Emanuel. "The assessment was critical in creating a clear understanding between our board and staff as to the challenges that needed to be addressed in order for our organization to go forward."
One of MCIL’s challenges was the need for staff development, says Ellie. "Nurturing staff is key to the success of any agency. We needed to provide training to support our staff in utilizing more of their full talent and capabilities."
In addition, MCIL was affected by changing state rules around the PCA program which comprises nearly 50 percent of MCIL’s revenue. As an organization, over 90 percent of revenue is connected to government contracts and fees.
Implementing a Multi-Faceted Approach for Success SCC’s Cheryl Jensen and Renae Oswald-Anderson began by conducting a comprehensive agency assessment, which was followed by an executive transition, a subsequent search and hiring of an executive director, and the development and implementation of a new management training series. In addition, SCC started a restructuring process to bring payroll in-house and created a billing specialist role. MCIL then hired an HR consultant/attorney to revise and update the employee handbook, create new job descriptions, and a compensation structure.
Jesse Bethke-Gomez was hired in February 2015 as MCIL’s new executive director. Jesse comes to MCIL with 20 years of executive nonprofit management experience. Jesse is committed to building a high-impact organization, creating an environment of transparency and openness, and providing employees with the training and experience to be successful leaders and innovators.
"SCC’s organizational assessment had a strong framework of actionable deliverables," says Jesse. "I wanted to build on Cheryl and Renae’s good work and was particularly interested in providing our managers with a solid training program around four key areas: program management, supervision, financial decision making, and communication styles. We considered external training options. However, SCC stepped forward to design an innovative customized curriculum for our managers. The once-a-month training programs are tailored especially to the unique opportunities of who we are at MCIL.
"This training came at a curiously good time in my work life and has provided me an opportunity to contribute to the conversation and learning," says Kelly Krantz, manager of MCIL’s Independent Living/Vocational Rehabilitation (ILVR) program. Kelly’s team members teach independent living skills, provide advocacy and referrals, and are onsite at metro-area workforce centers to assist clients in gaining employment. "The training is helping managers do our jobs more effectively," Kelly says.
The Outcomes Just one year after the assessment process began MCIL not only has a solid training curriculum but now has a diversified revenue model, a new resource development and fundraising program, and an outcome-based evaluation system to answer critical questions. "We are in a strong position to continue developing programs and services that are consumer directed," says Jesse. "And we are advancing a model of collaborative services in a wrap-around framework that honors the decision making of the consumer."
Board member, Ellie Emanuel, agrees. "The impact on consumers is that we have a staff that is happy and more energized in their work, willing to take on more leadership, and be more effective in their work." She adds that the agency is positioned to create a greater impact and presence in the disability community in a cooperative way. "This process has changed the thrust of what MCIL does to advance our mission, grow the organization, and continue providing our consumers with high-quality services that positively impact their lives."