Using Data to Improve Your Hiring in Human Services

You are looking for really talented, compassionate, skilled, dedicated people. You know you are not going to be able to pay them a lot. And you don’t want there to be a lot of turnover. You think the answer to this is to talk about how great your organization is, how they can join an exciting team, how they can contribute to helping those in need in your community. You will hire a really keen person. They will work with you for less than a year. Then they will leave. And you will go through all the effort again of posting and hiring for the position. Maybe, just maybe, if you had used data and transparency in your posting you’d end up hiring the right person for the job, being transparent about the demands of the job, and making sure they are up for the challenge before they get started. […] Read more »

The Big Picture: A Statewide Approach to Common Assessment

I am writing this about halfway through the first leg of the statewide SPDAT tour of Michigan. Michigan, in all her VAST glory, has joined a number of states and provinces that have decided that they want the same common assessment tool used across the entire State. Not just a community-by-community decision – a full, statewide implementation. Every Continuum of Care…all programs that get funding through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Department of Human Services or Department of Community Health…all regions…all types of communities (urban, rural, remote) – all using the exact same tool. This was the State’s idea. OrgCode didn’t push it or sell them on the idea. And while they were not the first to go this route (hello forward thinking Newfoundland & Labrador), we applaud the State and the handful of other states and provinces that have gone this direction. We also hope that other States […] Read more »

6 Things I Learned in Australia

From December 16-21, 2013 I spent time with Micah Projects in Brisbane, Australia. It was a fabulous opportunity to share the SPDAT with another community, as well as informally take in homelessness services first hand in another part of the world. Here are six things I took away from that trip: 1. Mobile Government Benefit Workers Is Possible I have encountered several communities in North America that have worked hard to get streamlined access to government benefit offices to get income supports. I have seen income support staff attend weekly case conferences and offer helpful commentary. And now I have seen what I thought was only a dream actually happen. Centrelink is an agency of the Department of Human Services. They actually have staff with laptops that go out to locations where homeless people are (in this instance a food program where there was also outreach) and have the ability […] Read more »

The Three R’s of Mindset in Human Services and How Each One Impacts our Perspective and Approach

Whether it is direct service, working with community partners to improve the service system, government policy, or funding – you have to consider the three R’s of your mindset. Each one impacts your perspective and approach. One of the R’s is proven to get better results than the others – though it should be acknowledged that none of them are perfect. Retribution We need to get out of the mindset of retribution. Coercion, threats, intimidation, and/or undue pressure do not result in everlasting change, positive results, “buy-in”, trust or sustainable relationships. It also neutralizes the possibility of creating an opportunity for dialogue when there are divergent points of view. Reciprocity We need to get out of the mindset of reciprocity. Bargaining, paybacks, obligation through ingratiation, “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, and/or trade-offs do not result in transparent decision-making. It also fails to take into account that agents involved […] Read more »


Dedicated to my pal Andy Burns who started a rather hilarious Facebook chat on how the next person who used the phrase “take it to the next level” was going to get punched in the taco. Once communities started the job of organizing homeless and housing programs to operate services like a system instead of a collection of projects/programs, it has invited business jargon into human services unlike anything I have ever seen.  What am I talking about? I’m talking about a data-driven paradigm shift to create a win-win in the interface between the service users and providers. After some blue skying about how to make the process run smoother, what most communities found is that they had to double back to the parking lot to take another look for the obvious – assuming they still had the bandwidth to do so and leaving the kimono open didn’t reveal that […] Read more »


Welcome to today’s Latin lesson. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” means “after it, therefore because of it”. It is the title of a West Wing episode from Season 1 (and you can watch the scene here where it is discussed). It also happens to be the sort of thing they teach you if you study logic and comes in handy if you love data and helping organizations improve services. In a nutshell, you can write up the formula like this: X happened, then Y happened Therefore, X caused Y You can also have people reverse elements of the equation. Let’s say it really sucks for Y to happen. In that case, if you avoid or prevent X then Y won’t occur. If you look just at the order of events rather than the influences on the events you can draw oodles of false conclusions. A temporal succession of events is […] Read more »

The Difference Between That Which We Think and That Which We Know Is One of the Most Important Distinctions To Be Made

Kathryn Schulz is a “wrongologist”, with a stellar ability to explain why we shouldn’t regret regret and provides some very credible and compelling thoughts on being wrong. I am a fan. Her book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error is a terrific read and if you have never seen her TED talks, I recommend both. One of her quotes which I have used over and over again because of the brilliance of it is, “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.” People make mistakes. They should. Theories need to be tested and will frequently be wrong or prove something unintended. Being wrong doesn’t make someone a bad person. Being wrong, however, can hinder our ability to be better at our jobs and in our lives when we fail to make […] Read more »

There’s A Difference Between Wanting to End Homelessness and Committing to End Homelessness

If you work in the homeless service sector you should have a very simple career goal – to put yourself out of a job. I have this belief that homeless and housing support services exist to end homelessness. They don’t exist to make people in human services feel good about themselves. They don’t exist to cleanse the consciousness of corporations through their philanthropy. They don’t exist to keep government bureaucracies humming along. There is a difference between wanting to end homelessness and committing to end homelessness. If you want to do something, you may or may not achieve it, and likely only under certain favorable conditions. If you commit to do something you will have steadfast fixity of purpose. When the conditions are unfavorable you will be the catalyst to actively change those conditions, remaining solution-focused all the while instead of accepting barriers as immovable, intractable problems that get in […] Read more »

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen & Gentlewomen

We’re winding down another year here at OrgCode. Heck, we’re even going to shut the door and turn off the phones for a week between Christmas and the New Year and that will be a first since we re-booted the company in Q4 2009. God rest us merry gentlemen and gentlewomen. It’s hard to believe that it has been two years since John Whitesell and I shook hands to grab the reins of OrgCode together – and a real honor for me given John had been leading the company as Managing Director for over 25 years. Taking a retrospective gander at 2011 there are some things that stand out for me as great opportunities as well as lessons learned. They are: Our professional integrity remains intact. We truly want to be catalysts for better outcomes and when we were challenged in a “bait and switch” RFP to be the mouthpiece […] Read more »

Helping Landlords Help You

[serialposts] PART FIVE: Helping Landlords Help You There should be a range of housing options for clients of your housing program to consider. In the best of circumstances this will include everything from permanent supportive housing to private market housing (with or without vouchers or rent supplements) and public/social housing. It will hopefully include a wide variety of units from multi-unit residential buildings to suites in the secondary market like basement suites or rented houses. It may also include the likes of well-maintained and managed rooming houses or boarding homes. And I could go on with the diverse types of housing. The key is to have a range of options that clients can CHOOSE from. Choice is fundamental to housing program success. If your organization does housing placements instead of offering housing choices, you are missing an important part of program success. In one research study it found that clients […] Read more »

The 5 Essential and Sequential Elements

[serialposts] In the fourth part of the series we look at the sequence of events that needs to occur for housing programs to be successful. PART FOUR: The 5 Essential and Sequential Elements Regardless of the presenting needs and complexity of issues, housing programs always function best when housing is the first task to focus on. Throughout my travels I have seen far too great an emphasis on trying to get a case plan in place prior to getting someone housed…or getting the client into treatment first…or getting the client compliant with medication first – and I could go on. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of Housing First or not – what is critically clear through the evaluations we have performed and my years of professional practice is that housing has to be the first thing worked on or else the rest of the tasks are not […] Read more »

Service Orientation

[serialposts] In this multi-part blog series we are examining the essential elements of successful housing programs that focus on ending homelessness. We pick up here in Part 2 looking at the Service Orientation that is necessary. PART TWO: Service Orientation The secret to a successful housing program? Meet people where they are at in their life journey. Don’t set up barriers or unattainable expectations. Accept the decisions that people have made in their life and how they became homeless at face value, help them achieve housing, and then provide the supports necessary to help them achieve long-term residential stability. In case you missed the subtlety – house people, then support them. If you put together an elaborate service plan or case plan prior to helping someone get housing you are doing it “bass ackwards”. House people then support them. The evidence is clear that people achieve better long-term housing outcomes […] Read more »