Calling Poverty's Fiercest Adversaries

Author: Missi Cowart, LEO project development associate

We have been busy leading our newest Cohort of partners through the research design process. This summer, our partners presented their completed research designs at Workshop 2, which is all about our partners taking a moment to share the incredible work they’ve done to this point, the ins and outs of their intervention, and why they are committed to building evidence. Here’s a look at each of these 11 awesome organizations!


10,000 Degrees
Bay Area, CA

10,000 Degrees supports low-income, often first-generation, college students to persist and complete a 4-year institution degree through financial scholarships and case management. The program services are provided by 10,000 Degrees Fellows, who are recent college graduates from similar backgrounds and communities as the current students. LEO and 10,000 Degrees are partnering together to understand the impact that providing intensive support to students, such as personalized text message check-ins, regular meetings between students and fellows, and resource newsletters, has on students’ academic performance and graduation.

Stockton, CA
Sacramento, CA

ACE has developed a new initiative focused on teacher leadership. The Ascent Program brings together superintendents, principals, teacher leaders, and staff to grapple with cultural and curricular issues within and across schools. ACE is partnering with two Archdioceses, Stockton and Sacramento, that are interested in identifying teacher leaders who will participate in the Ascent Program, where math teachers will receive professional development, curriculum, and leadership support. LEO is planning to study the impact of this two-year program on students’ academic achievement.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago (CCAC) is designing a new youth program, Peace Corner Mentoring Program, with a proactive, preventative lens, to address interconnected obstacles that youth from under-resourced communities face. CCAC will focus on serving middle school students in this program (ages 10 - 14, in grades 5-8), and will recruit from key partner schools and programs in the Austin neighborhood. As youth enter 5th grade, they will join a holistic, intensive school year program including mentoring, enrichment of socio-emotional skills and building resilience and relationships, trauma-informed mental health supports, and case management. LEO plans to study the impact of the Peace Corner Mentoring Program on short-term and long-term education and well-being outcomes.

Goodwill Excel Center Indy
Indianapolis, IN

Excel Center Graduation Day With Daughter
Photo Credit: Goodwill Excel Center

Goodwill Excel Center in Indianapolis provides adult learning courses towards a high school diploma with support services such as on-site child care, transportation assistance, and college credit and industry-recognized certification courses – all at no cost.

Goodwill has noticed that they have a large volume of people apply to be part of the Excel Center, but then many applicants drop off and never enroll and attend on Day 1. Goodwill is partnering with LEO to test the impact of two interventions intended to increase take-up for those who apply to enroll and come to classes: first, a video designed to address barriers to degree completion that applicants may be facing, and second, a one-on-one orientation (rather than a group orientation, as the Excel Center has used previously) and early connection to a life coach who will support the students through their time in the Excel Center.


Boundless Freedom Project
California Prisons

The Boundless Freedom Project offers Mindful Prisons, a non-religious meditation and mindfulness program for people who are incarcerated. Different mindfulness practices are introduced at each session, helping people learn tools for success with a more trauma-informed lens. It allows people to work through difficult emotions and become self-reflective.

LEO and Boundless Freedom Project are partnering together to understand the impact of Mindful Prisons on outcomes such as reductions in behavioral incidents, increased prosocial behavior, reduction in stress, and successful parole hearings.


Compassion Prison Project
California Prisons

Credit Jayme Younger Cpp Man With Eyes Closed Website
Photo Credit: Jayme Younger, Compassion Prison Project

The Compassion Prison Project mission is to create trauma-informed prisons and communities through trauma-awareness education and programming. LEO and Compassion Prison Project are studying the impact of their Trauma Talks program, a 16-part video, workbook, and discussion group series with approximately 15 participants. Approximately 98% of incarcerated individuals have had adverse childhood experiences. Compassion Prison Project hopes each participant will have a new awareness of how their past has shaped their current life and with some newly learned tools and understandings they can create new decision-making patterns. Expected outcomes include reduced rules violations, reduced violence, and increased income and job stability post release.



Insight Garden Program
California Prisons

Insight Garden Program runs an innovative curriculum combined with vocational gardening and landscaping training so that people in prison can reconnect to self, community, and the natural world. They believe their “inner” and “outer” gardening approach transforms lives, ends ongoing cycles of incarceration, and creates safer communities due to their 52 week program where they meet every week for 2 hours with one part of sessions being practical gardening skills and the other part being small group discussion and application. LEO and Insight Garden Program are partnering together to understand the impact of the program on participants.

LEO is interested in studying qualitative outcomes such as emotional intelligence and decreased stress from the program as well as measuring behavioral outcomes in parole and post-release.


Child Advocates
Indianapolis, IN

Child Advocates serves children and youth throughout Indiana who are in the child welfare system. Their commitment is to listen to children and be their voice by providing them with legal representation, standing up for their liberties and working tirelessly to keep them safe and secure with an opportunity to thrive.

LEO and Child Advocates are partnering together to study their Direct Representation Program that provides youth with their own attorney. By providing youth with attorneys of their own, they will give children the opportunity to take control of their own lives. Attorneys amplify their voices in the courtroom and during case planning meetings. Planned outcomes of the study include time to permanency in placement, placement stability, reunification, and academic performance.


Catholic Charities Northern Nevada
Reno, NV

Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada is launching a new program called Elevating Families, with the goal of supporting families in increasing their earnings potential and breaking the cycle of generational poverty. They will provide families with wraparound services to help them increase their earnings potential and achieve greater economic stability. Families in the program will receive supportive services in areas such as employment, childcare, and transportation. Elevating Families is based on the mobility mentoring model designed by Economic Mobility Pathway (EMPath), which has been adopted and adapted by over 395 non-profit organizations across the U.S. The key innovation of Elevating Families is its focus on the program’s impact on children’s outcomes.

LEO and CCNN will study the impact of this intervention on labor market outcomes, housing stability, children’s school performance, and improved social/emotional outcomes of the children whose parents participated in the program. Long-term outcomes will look at how this program could reduce toxic stress related to poverty and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty as a whole.


Family Promise of West Michigan, Family Promise Spokane, and The Lord’s Place
Grand Rapids, MI
Spokane, WA
West Palm Beach, FL

Family Promise Grand Rapids, Family Promise Spokane, and The Lord’s Place will jointly work to study the impact of diversion, an immediate intervention for someone who has just begun experiencing homelessness or is at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness. The exact design of diversion varies between communities, and different versions of the intervention may include case management and flexible funding (on average $500 per household) to help individuals secure permanent housing without a shelter stay.

LEO is interested in understanding the impact of both the financial assistance and case management aspects of diversion on the likelihood that a household is able to avoid a shelter stay and maintain long-term housing stability.

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