Building Better Programs

Executive Skills Profile

Below is an adapted version of the Executive Skills questionnaire developed by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare and instructions for use. This tool is intended to be used to help individuals get a better understanding of their skill strengths and skill weaknesses.  Keep in mind that it is not a diagnostic tool. Guidance for practitioners using the ES Questionnaire is also included. For a more detailed explanation, please view the webinar on how to use and administer the ES Questionnaire.

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Goal, Plan, Do, Review & Revise (GPDR/R) Materials

The GPDR/R is a framework that takes research on goal achievement and practical solutions developed by executive function experts for use primarily in schools and adapts them for use in job search and other human service programs. The GPDR/R framework makes explicit the strategies and steps that lead to successful goal achievement.

Materials: We have produced a manual (see document box to the right) that provides staff with information and tools to integrate the GPDR/R framework into their existing programs.  The manual includes information on the principles and concepts underlying the model, and materials for implementing GPDR/R inlcuding staff guides, participant tools and instructions for workshops and group activities.  The manual is available as a word document so that you can tailor the materials to fit the needs of your program.  The manual will be updated as we develop new materials.

If you have any questions about GPDR/R or would like to share your experience using the materials, please contact LaDonna Pavetti (

Job Search or Basic Education Participation First: Which Improves Welfare Recipients’ Earnings More

By Gayle Hamilton Charles Michalopoulos
October 2016

MDRC’s brief revisits the ongoing debate about whether TANF recipients are better served in the long term by finding work quickly or by first obtaining education and training to improve job prospects.  Hamilton and Michalopoulos present findings from three sites who take part in the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS), which randomly assigns participants to labor force attachment (LFA) programs or human capital development (HCD) programs to study the effects they have on participant employment.  Researchers followed up with participants for several years after program completion, comparing wages at years 1-2, years 3-5, and years 10-15.  In the short term, results show that LFA participants had higher earnings than HCD participants.  In the long run, HCD participants eventually surpassed LFA participants, but not in amounts that were statistically significant.  While both programs imporved the earnings of participants, advocates and policy makers should carefully consider their costs in association with their short and long term benefits when considering which programs to promote and fund. 

Read the full report here.

Prize Savings Incentive Program

Commonwealth, an Annie E. Casey Foundation grantee, in partnership with Walmart and Green Dot, has launched “Prize Savings”, a Prize-Linked Savings (PLS) incentive program, available to Walmart MoneyCard holders. This program, launched to help financially-vulnerable Americans, incentivizes cardholders to save by entering them in a monthly sweepstakes that awards  cash prizes when they elect to save money from their account using the MoneyCard Vault. Since launching Prize Savings in August 2016, use of the MoneyCard Vault has increased by more than 130%. Read more about this program here.

Using Incentives in Human Services: Field Guide, Literature Review, and Webinar

Engagement and persistence are two common issues in human service programs which incentives may help to address. The material on this page includes an extensive literature review on incentive use, a field guide for programs to use when designing incentives for their participants, a webinar that reviews the background information on how to understand costs and benefits when implementing incentives, and the corresponding presentation slides (in PDF format).

While the literature review gives background information on how incentives are used in multiple domains, the field guide offers specific guidance to programs and tools to help them design programs using incentives.


Testing Two Subsidized Employment Approaches for Recipients of TANF: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Los Angeles County Transitional Subsidized Employment Program (OPRE)

The Los Angeles STED study compares two approaches to subsidized employment with a non-subsidized employment control group: (1) Paid Work Experience, which subsidized the wages of individuals placed at non-profit or public sector employers; and (2) On-the-Job Training, which offered wage subsidies to private sector employers. The program targeted TANF recipients who, following supervised job search, were unable to secure employment in the competitive labor market. This report covers early impacts (12 months after random assignment) and implementation of the TSE program.


Implementation Findings
• There was substantial variation in placement rates by program. Among On-the-Job Training (OJT) program group members, 42 percent were placed in a subsidized employment position; 80 percent of Paid Work Experience (PWE) participants were placed.
• The PWE and OJT groups also differed in terms of time to placement and duration of placements. Initial placement took longer for the OJT group compared to PWE – averages of 58.5 days and 46.8 days, respectively.
• PWE participants remained in their subsidized jobs for an average of 150 days; OJT participants stayed in their positions for an average of 106 days. Overall, 91 percent of PWE placements and 64 percent of OJT placements continued beyond the second month, the point at which OJT participants were to transition onto the employer’s payroll.
• Members of the control group were almost as likely as those in the program groups to receive some type of welfare-to-work services (other than subsidized employment). The control group was more likely than either of the program groups to be involved in education-related activities.

Impact Findings
• Overall, impacts on participation and service receipt beyond the subsidized job were modest, reflecting the continued services available to the control group through DPSS and other services available in the community.
• In the first year after random assignment, both PWE and OJT group members were more likely to work, worked more quarters on average, and had higher average earnings than control group members; these differences were larger among sample members that had not been employed in the year prior to random assignment and declined as people left subsidized jobs.
• In the year following random assignment, there were few differences in the rate of TANF receipt between the PWE, OJT, and control group members, but PWE and OJT group members had slightly lower total TANF amounts.
• Using data from the in-program survey (around five months after random assignment) when many people were still in subsidized jobs, both PWE and OJT group members were more likely than control group members to report being financially better off than they were one year prior. There were few other statistically significant differences in well-being between PWE, OJT, and control group members during this early follow-up period.
• Around one year after random assignment, there were few statistically significant differences in measures of well-being between program group members and control group members.


First Steps on the Road to Financial Well-Being: Final Report from the Evaluation of LISC’s Financial Opportunity Centers

Anne Roder’s report from the Economic Mobility Corporation (EMC) on how Local Initiatives Support Corporations (LISCs) provide financial and technical support to community organizations operating Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs).  FOCs support low-income individuals and families with programs focused on employment assistance, financial counseling, and public benefits access.  In this report, the EMC evaluates the effectiveness of the FOC model in five Chicago-area locations on participants two years after entry into FOC programs.  Though measurements of FOC success seem inconclusive, EMC notes that establishing sound financial foundations is a long-term process and financial counseling and employment services can play an important role in helping low-income individuals.  Here are some of the findings:

  • FOC participants face significant obstacles to financial security, including low educational attainment, high unemployment, poor credit histories, and few assets.
  • FOCs improved participant’s use of employment and financial services.
  • After two years, FOC participants did not have higher incomes that the comparison group.
  • FOC participants made strides towards building a healthy credit history, however there was no impact on prime credit scores after two years.
  • Improvements in employment and credit were highest among FOC participants who were highly engaged in financial and employment counseling.
  • Participant’s net worth was not significantly affected, however debt unrelated to asset accumulation was reduced.


First Steps on the Road to Financial Well-Being



CLASP – Seizing New Policy Opportunities to Help Low-Income Mothers with Depression

Center for Law and Social Policy By: Stephanie Schmit and Christina Walker June 2016

Maternal depression is wide-spread among low-income families. One in nine babies in poverty has a mother suffering from depression. New provisions under the Affordable Care Act, recent federal decisions and guidance, and state and local innovations have provide unique opportunities to address this issue. Improving depression outcomes for low-income mothers has implications for the health of the mothers and their children, and for their chances of escaping poverty. This brief from CLASP pulls from interviews with various stakeholders in the areas of child care and early education, health, and mental health to provide ideas for state and federal action.

Read here