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Empower Baltimore Management Corporation

The Challenge

Empower Baltimore Management Corporation (EBMC) is a non-profit corporation created to launch and administer Baltimore’s federal Empowerment Zone grant. EBMC’s guiding philosophy was to establish “Village Centers” in each of the six neighborhood areas that encompassed the Baltimore Empowerment Zone, and to develop local capacity for running EZ programs beyond the 10-year horizon of the federal grant.

One of EBMC’s priorities was to establish Career Centers in each of the Village Centers. Career Centers would be hands-on providers of job training services to EZ residents, but it was critical that EBMC be able to track activities and monitor the effectiveness of the decentralized program.

The process was complicated by three key factors:

  1. The services provided by one Village Center are open to any EZ resident from any of the Village Center areas;
  2. The Village Centers were empowered to create and use any process and tracking system they wanted, so long as they could report their activity on a regular basis;
  3. EBMC did not just want output counts of activities, so the data needed to distinguish among discrete services to specific individuals.

The Solution

Working with the Career Center Directors of five of the six Village Centers (one Village Center chose not to participate) and a local software development firm, UPD facilitated a series of needs assessment and design sessions to plot out the process flows of each Career Center and identify new procedures that would accommodate each Center’s needs while delivering the required data in a way that preserved confidentiality.

UPD then helped design a linked IT system that allows flexibility for each Village Center to administer its own set of services. We maintained client confidentiality for each Village Center’s clients, and provided EBMC with access to the data it needed to evaluate the relative success of the services it was funding.

The Outcome

The software product that resulted from this process was ultimately used by all five participating Village Centers, and the process itself led to service delivery improvements across all of the Career Centers. In the end, those Directors who were at first attracted by the “free” system they were to receive agreed that the opportunity to design their workforce development tool made them better at their own job.