We asked Heather Reynolds, President and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) and James Sullivan, Director of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame about their work together to reduce poverty and improve lives.
Here's what they had to say.
Heather Reynolds: When I became CEO of CCFW more than a decade ago, I read a newspaper article about a CEO retiring from a local homeless shelter. In the article, he shared that after more than two decades of work with the homeless, he thought they were not any better off than the day he had started. Last year, when our organization set a goal of moving 10,000 families out of poverty over the next decade, I was asked if that goal scared me. It does. What scares me even more is the idea that I would be quoted in the newspaper sharing similar sentiments.
The destination matters, and if the journey is what gets you there, then you had better believe that the journey matters, too. A huge part of the journey at CCFW is to invest in research so we can get to our end goal--our destination--of ending poverty one family at a time. We have upped the bar on what ending poverty means--it means families making a living wage, having three months of savings, and being free of debt and government assistance.
We decided to make a change: no more band aids or repeat customers, no more quantifying output goals that only counted the number of people served. We decided we were going to double down on things that we know work with families and shed ourselves of programs and services that did not.
And that requires practitioners and researchers coming together to find out what really works to end poverty.
James Sullivan: Enter the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO)--a premier national poverty research lab housed in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame. We match top researchers with social services providers to conduct impact evaluations that identify the innovative, effective, and scalable programs and policies that support self-sufficiency. LEO's research is conducted by Notre Dame faculty, along with an interdisciplinary network of scholars from across the country, with expertise in designing and evaluating the impact of domestic programs aimed at reducing poverty and improving lives. William Evans and I co-founded LEO in 2012 and were quickly introduced by a national partner, Catholic Charities USA, to the...