What Works: Goals Matter
What drives outcomes in human service programs? Does it matter how frequently we meet with participants? Or does it matter more what we do with meeting time—specifically, setting goals? Does the length of goal matter? We analyzed findings from EMPath’s programs to find answers you can use.
EMPath rigorously analyzes outcomes from our own programs—and those of our Exchange member organizations—to figure out what drives better outcomes. We started the What Works Series to share these learnings broadly with those working in human services, philanthropy, policymaking, academia, and beyond. We know that there are many others out there who, like us, are always seeking to improve practice and ultimately drive better outcomes for families that are struggling.
Why look at Goal-Setting? A short review of research.
Although goal-setting is included in many human service interventions, it is not broadly systematized in the field. Program staff may set a goal or a few goals with participants, but then not return to them until months later. This is a lost opportunity, as goal-setting—when done correctly—is very powerful.
Research over the past 50 years consistently demonstrates a strong association between goal-setting and a broad array of outcomes, including workers’ performance, academic performance, financial literacy and status, and dietary change.
Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) is a national non-profit that dramatically improves the lives of people struggling to make ends meet. Because creating economic opportunity is multifaceted, our approach is too. We offer a unique combination of direct service, learning exchange, and research and advocacy for what works. This “virtuous circle” allows each part of our work to inform what we know, do, and share with others to seed systemic change.
• Using our research-backed method for one-on-one support (Mobility Mentoring®), we work directly with people living in poverty to help them climb the economic ladder.
• We lead a network of organizations (the Exchange) to help them get better results and re-envision the systems that serve people experiencing poverty.
• We do research to inform our practice and advocate to take what works to scale.