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Using a SIMPLER Way

October 21, 2021

Working Families Success Advisory Council Member, Terri Rios, shares insights on how The Women’s Center of Tarrant County applied behavioral science techniques to improve services for its clients

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Guest Author: Terri Rios, Director of Employment Solutions, The Women's Center of Tarrant County

The Women’s Center of Tarrant County has never used a “one-size-fits-all” approach for our clients. We look at the issues people are facing and figure out effective ways to create positive change for each person we serve and their situation. That’s one of many reasons being part of the Working Families Success (WFS) Network is a great experience for us. Being in the network of our peers gives us the opportunity to learn new ways to address community challenges.

In 2019, Communities Foundation of Texas Community Philanthropy Director Nadine Dechausay talked to the WFS Network about the practice of using behavioral science to examine the services nonprofits offer clients. The goal, Dechausay shared, is to use behavioral insights to improve the delivery of services so client support moves from the production of outputs to the enhancement of lives. As we learned and researched the potential uses of behavioral science applications, we saw it as a tool we could use to create ways to increase client participation and engagement in our programs on an ongoing basis. We were seeing clients reach short-term goals, like getting a job, but we needed to implement strategies to keep them engaged to reach long-term goals, like achieving financial stability. We used behavioral science to understand what might be going on in our clients’ lives that would prevent them from receiving our full slate of support.

A framework Nadine introduced to us is the SIMPLER model. SIMPLER stands for Social Influence, Implementation Prompt, Making Deadlines, Personalization, Loss Aversion, Ease and Reminder. According to MDRC, an education and social policy research organization, SIMPLER describes the behavioral principles in the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, which was the first major effort to apply behavioral insights to the human services programs in the United States. SIMPLER was developed to summarize key behavioral concepts that may be relevant for a variety of programs.

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Source: Final Report of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) Project - May 2017


At The Women’s Center of Tarrant County, we used SIMPLER to take what we already knew about our programs and organized that knowledge to make our efforts holistic, clear and actionable. Here are some examples:

  • Social Influence: We recognized from research we’ve used since the founding of The Women’s Center in 1979 that women experience learning and growth when they are in groups. Fellowship with others helps clients rebuild confidence and creates space for learning, structure, comfort and community.
  • Making Deadlines and Reminders: Our coaches offer gentle reminders to clients about available workshops and job interviews to make sure clients are meeting deadlines. Now, we keep a record of every goal a client sets, put timelines on each goal and let the client know when there are goals still to be met. The feedback from clients is that it really helps. We’ve seen a significant increase in the cumulative total of goals met by our clients.
  • Personalization: Our expanded focus on behavioral science at The Women’s Center has allowed for a greater flexibility among clients’ life plans and a new level of adaptability for each client based on their specific needs and varying schedules. For example, clients are now able to tell a coach, “I want to work on my resume,” and a coach can relay the workshop hours the client should attend and meet with them after for review. We also moved our intake forms online. 
  • Ease: We’ve adapted to allow more flexibility in our program schedules to account for the unprecedented events of the past year. For example, if a client had an internet connectivity issue or weren’t comfortable attending virtually, our coaches worked with clients one-on-one via the phone, email or text. We provided donated tablets and Chromebooks to clients with tech needs. We’ve been working with clients to help them get comfortable in a virtual environment since many job interviews have moved online during the pandemic.

Many of our clients are at critical points in their lives. Our role is to help them see what opportunities are available to them and give them hope. We walk beside people to show them the steps they can take, whom to contact, what to do and so one to illustrate what opportunities are out there for them. Behavioral science encourages us to do things in a much more personal way. We’re enabling them to see how capable they are to make better and informed decisions, and our use of SIMPLER to streamline our efforts helped us be more effective in our own journey alongside our clients.


 About Terri Rios:
Terri has always had a passion for empowering people and helping them find opportunities have agency in their lives. That passion led her to The Women’s Center of Tarrant County, where she started as a case manager 32 years ago and now serves as the Director of Employment Solutions, overseeing a staff that addresses financial stability and intergenerational poverty for low-income individuals and families across Tarrant County. “I want to give people hope and help them to see that they have potential to be successful and help them be a role model for their children and help them be proud of themselves. There’s just something special about seeing the light return to someone’s eyes when they realize, ‘I can do this’.”

About The Women’s Center:
Since 1979, The Women’s Center of Tarrant County has helped people recover from difficult times. Its mission is to inspire and empower families to overcome violence, crisis and poverty, and become financially stable and independent. The center’s programs include employment solutions, rape crisis, violence prevention and counseling. 

Read the first blog in the Working Families Success series here

Want to learn more about CFT’s focus on Economic Security?
At Communities Foundation of Texas, we are deeply committed to making a profound and measurable impact in the economic success across the North Texas community. If you have questions about our work or would like to learn how you could invest alongside us, please contact us at grants@cftexas.org.

 

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