This resource provides service providers utilizing integrated service delivery models promising practices for assisting participants in self-sufficiency and goal setting using strategies grounded in research and based on site visits to organizations coordinating services to help economically disadvantaged individuals. 

The Working Families Success Network is committed to helping families become financially stable through ISD

Integrated service delivery (ISD) is designed to help individuals facing challenges to economic stability gain access to the services they need to achieve self-sufficiency. The Working Families Success Network (WFSN) supports ISD across three pillars: (1) employment and career advancement, (2) financial and asset-building services, and (3) income enhancements and work supports. In the WFSN, organizations are expected to meet each participant’s needs through services across the three pillars, and have flexibility in how they deliver those services.

The article primarily identifies promising practices for providing participants with goal setting strategies for self-sufficiency. The authors conducted a survey of 71 WFSN organizations in 2016 and visited 8 of them in 2017. Their research suggests that goal setting may encourage participants to access services in multiple pillars; according to their survey analysis, working with participants to set goals is associated with participants receiving services in two pillars. This brief presents four strategies that have shown promise—both during the authors visits and in the research literature—for supporting goal setting and that could be used to connect participants with services designed to help them become self-sufficient. Because both ISD and goal setting and pursuit are processes that take place over time, these strategies may give practitioners ideas for how to provide ongoing support to participants as they pursue economic stability.

The authors visited several WFSN organizations that exemplify this general strategy of setting and documenting goals. The brief presents four strategies that can be used to support goal setting and pursuit, along with examples of specific practices implemented by WFSN organizations. The authors conclude with a discussion of considerations for implementing these strategies.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Four Research-Informed Strategies that can Help Participants Set and Pursue Goals

1. Tracking goals can motivate people. Tracking progress toward goal attainment can help motivate people to continue to pursue their goals. For example, a participant may set a goal of saving a certain amount of money for emergencies; staff may document that amount of money as the ultimate goal, and then track how much money the participant saves each week along the way to meeting that goal.

2. Coaching can provide critical support during the pursuit of goals. All of the WFSN organizations visited offer coaching to their participants. Coaching is intended to help people pursue and meet their goals and eventually act on their own without external support. Coaches also provide feedback to help people assess their own behavior, a technique that is effective in helping people set and pursue goals.

3. Commitment devices’ can motivate people to stick to their goals. A ‘commitment device’ asks participants to pledge that they will enact a certain behavior or meet a specific goal. Commitments—made either in private or in public—have been shown to increase the likelihood of enacting a certain behavior. In other words, asking someone to say they will do something makes it more likely that they will do it.

4. Monetary incentives may also motivate people to pursue their goals. Some research shows that incentives can spur motivation toward goal pursuit. Monetary incentives can take the form of cash, checks, gift cards, transportation benefits, or other items that can help participants, such as household supplies.

Considerations for Implementing Research-Informed Strategies

The strategies summarized in this brief can help practitioners at WFSN organizations encourage participants to access services across pillars and pursue activities intended to help them achieve self-sufficiency. Organizations that do not currently use these strategies may want to test them out with participants—perhaps starting with a subset of participants, such as those in one program—to assess whether these strategies boost program take-up and persistence or improve participant outcomes. Tailoring these strategies to participants’ needs may be critical. Some organizations may find it more important to address recruitment, whereas others may find that their primary challenges are with program persistence.