Solving, Not Just Serving the Problem

The Fedcap Group is interested in changing the world. To that end we engage in applied research and analysis to better understand and respond to society’s most pressing needs. This requires looking beyond the obvious to understand the root cause of issues we are trying to solve. We work to develop insight-driven solutions and build informed strategies that serve to raise the bar on overall system performance.

Ask the Right Question

We believe it is our responsibility to thoroughly understand the problem we are trying to solve. We wonder, after countless efforts and billions of dollars in spending, why the statistics below have remained relatively consistent over the course of many years or even decades?

  • 74% of youth transitioning from foster care experience homelessness, joblessness, prison or multiple pregnancies within three years of transition.
  • 81% of individuals of working age with significant disabilities are unemployed.
  • 67% of people released from prison are re-arrested within 3 years.

We ask ourselves what is missing, what is the precise intervention within or outside of the service flow required to change these outcomes? We have learned that if we are caught in a problem that seems unsolvable we should ask what else could be the core of the problem? What don’t we know? Where does the service system break down? What don’t we understand?

If we don't ask the right questions, most of the time we will end solving the wrong problem.

Let’s say you are tasked to design a racing car to win at the 24-hour Le Mans race, what would you aim for? The obvious reaction would be: “I want to build the fastest car possible”. We are taught that the best way to beat another car is to have the fastest one. Ironically enough, Audi’s chief engineer took a different approach when developing their new car for the 24-hour Le Mans race. “How can we win Le Mans if our car is not the fastest?” — he challenged the team. By reframing the problem, the design team came-up with a simple yet powerful solution: a fuel-efficient car. Fewer pit stops not only offset not being the fastest car but also helped Audi win four years in a row.

Define and Test Precise Interventions

We believe that we can make a difference, move the needle and change the outcomes in the target areas highlighted above and others as our work evolves. We have committed time, intellect and resources to designing, testing and refining solutions. We are building evidence that demonstrates that a precise set of interventions, sequenced in the right way and delivered with the right intensity can change outcomes. And it is not our goal to hold onto these solutions but to share them, to institutionalize them within systems of care.

Examples of Tested Solutions

In order to address the dire trajectory of young adults aging out of foster care, we began by asking who within the system has the greatest potential to impact these outcomes. It is not the social workers, nor teachers. Just like children living with their own families—it is the parents who inspire, the parents who set the tone and promote college attendance. Clearly foster parents are a critical piece of the puzzle—and yet none of their training was directed at helping them support college attendance by the youth in their care. With funding from the Conrad Hilton, Pinkerton and Stuart Foundations, we created PrepNOW!™ a professional development course for foster parents. This interactive web-based tool helps foster parents learn how to motivate youth in their care to go to college and it teaches the specific skills required such as navigating the college application process, taking youth on college tours, completing financial aid forms. They first learn how to inspire young people to want to go to college—and then they follow up with hands on support. The results based on an evaluation from the American Institute for Research demonstrate that when foster parents become engaged in helping youth enter college and graduate—the outcomes improve significantly. Youth go to college at the same rates as their peers in the general public and their rates of persistence and college graduation are near 80%.

In another example, Workforce Development leadership of The Fedcap Group conducted focus groups comprised of individuals with criminal justice backgrounds, their families and representatives from government and learned that the single most important factor to support successful integration is having a bridge between in jail-settings to serve as a “bridge” to the larger community with access to a familiar support person upon re-entry. As a result, we designed a program model to reduce the likelihood of recidivism and smoothen the transition from jail to the community. To date, 64% of individuals involved in this program released from Rikers Island into the community voluntarily engaged in services with us and remained free of the criminal justice system after two years and nearly 40% achieved full-time employment.