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The Root Cause Blog
23 Feb

What Root Cause is Reading – February 2016

What actually works in improving lives? Here at Root Cause, we keep an eye out for the most interesting updates on strategy, assessments, data, evidence, high performance, and more, especially related to employment, education, health, and racial equity. We use them to spark discussions among teams, build a culture of continuous improvement, and inform clients’ projects. Here’s the best of what we’ve seen lately.

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    • A Philanthropist Drills Down to Discover Why Programs Work

      (NYTimes) — Chicago’s Susan Crown has invested in “a very focused, intentional” effort to figure out what sets apart her high-performing grantees. “These programs seemed to be improving the lives of the small number of participants they served. How were they doing it, and could it be replicated?” One of our favorite questions!
    • Reconsidering Evidence – What It Means and How We Use It

      (SSIR) — Evidence-based vs. evidence-informed decision-making: which is better? Lisbeth B. Schorr argues that "We must be willing to shake the intuition that certainty should be our highest priority.” Read this if you’re thinking about how to use evidence in making future choices.
    • The Promise and Peril of an ‘Outcomes Mindset

      (SSIR) — A government focus on outcomes seems refreshing, but past setbacks and examples can be disappointing. How can we learn from our mistakes to implement effective evidence-based policy that creates “synergy between outcomes and impact”?    
    • Why Aren’t Black Students Picking Majors that Lead to High-Paying Jobs?

      (Yahoo News) — Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce explores the complex links between race, higher education, and employment. A great reminder about needing to deeply understand all the systems at work in order to design strategies that actually work.
    • Black America and the Class Divide

      (NYTimes) — Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. confronts the “class divide…within Black America…between black haves and have-nots.” Institutional change rests on getting nuanced in our understanding: something to keep in mind if we’re really going to put an end to racial injustice.
    • If You Want Clean Water, Don’t Be Black in America

      (The Atlantic’s CityLab) — This piece traces environmental racism back to Reconstruction, giving an account of “American saga that has consistently found people of color fighting for basic rights.”  A reminder that when working on a social issue, an understanding of the history around it is imperative.

    Finally, a hopeful thought from wise author Seth Godin for those working to improve life outcomes for populations that lack opportunity AND those eagerly awaiting spring