Third Sector Wins Grand Prize in the Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center Challenge

An image of the united states imprinted with GEAR Center Challenge Winners: Third Sector Capital Partners and SkillSource Group

Third Sector is leading a team selected as one of three grand prize winners of the Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center Challenge. The GEAR Center competition challenged respondents and problem solvers from the public, academia, and industry to build cross-sector, multidisciplinary teams to demonstrate the potential of the GEAR Center as a public-private partnership to improve mission delivery, citizen services, and stewardship of public resources. “GEAR Center Challenge submissions are promising examples of how innovative public-private partnerships can transform government mission delivery, service to citizens and stewardship. The GEAR Center is already creating incentives for cross-sector collaborations that will better serve the American people,” says the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert.

Supported by the $300,000 grant from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the OMB, Third Sector will work with the SkillSource Group over the course of the next year to pilot an approach to integrate siloed data held by different government agencies. The SkillSource Group is the fiscal agent for the Virginia Career Works Northern Region, the workforce development board for Northern Virginia. Third Sector previously worked with the SkillSource Group to refine their  services delivered under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to improve workforce outcomes for Northern Virginia’s Opportunity Youth. This new project will build on that initiative and enable initiative partners to show how better employment outcomes also lead to improved outcomes in other domains like justice and human services for the Opportunity Youth. We hope to show that removing the barriers between agencies and services through a shared multi-agency view of the people being served can lead to better governance and service delivery.

Using the GEAR award, Third Sector and the SkillSource Group intend to show how an improved data set that integrates across agencies and levels of government can modernize government service delivery and enhance our understanding of community members’ needs and how they benefit from services. Today, government’s data structure typically mirrors agency boundaries and was designed around reporting and compliance, without the ability to use multiple data sets to proactively understand individuals’ needs. In contrast, the private sector uses data more holistically to understand the customer and how they can improve products and services to better meet customer needs. “Too often, government only sees one agency’s services in isolation and misses the connection with other needs or how their services intersect with and impact other agencies’ services,” said Brian Beachkofski, Third Sector Managing Director. “We’re excited to continue to work with SkillSource to innovate the government data structure to be more holistic with this generous funding from The GEAR Center.”

Third Sector and the SkillSource Group will collaborate with partner agencies from our earlier engagement to facilitate new data-sharing agreements to expand access to and link data across workforce, education, justice, and benefits data. The work supported by this grant expands upon existing Virginia data integration efforts to evaluate and leverage multiple administrative data sources to measure the impact of workforce development programs on outcomes beyond skill attainment, certification, and employment. Over the year of the grant, the work will include bringing together stakeholders with program, technical and data, and legal expertise to align on a data strategy, shared outcome metrics of interest and research questions, as well as data management processes and oversight responsibilities. Ultimately, stakeholders will share tangible use cases to test and improve upon the shared data, so that data-driven policy making can support continuous improvement of programs. This model will be designed as an example for other agencies and jurisdictions across the country to build on and modernize how government delivers services, meeting the goals of the GEAR Center challenge.

Integrating these additional data sources will require new government skill-building and planning for a long-term data partner. The team will receive advice and training from New York University’s Administrative Data Research Facility (ADRF) on integrating and analyzing data in a way that both increases insight into program effectiveness while ensuring personal privacy and data security. After this 12-month pilot when the data-sharing agreements are signed, the ADRF will build  a scalable secure platform that has the capability to host data and transform the data into actionable and relevant insights. The result will be data linked across numerous data sets that allow the analysis of outcomes for individuals that engage with multiple agencies.

By the end of the engagement, Third Sector hopes to reduce the silos across data sources and agencies involved in supporting Opportunity Youth in Northern Virginia, and to more thoroughly understand what drives employment and long-term success for foster-care and justice-involved youth. By understanding the needs of program participants and the services they are utilizing, we hope to help government and service providers coordinate services to successfully meet individuals’ needs.

Learn more from the press release on the GSA website here.