SVDP Systemic ChangeThe Society of St. Vincent dePaul has posted a very rich collection of recourses for Systemic Change. The material is organized in the following categories.

  • General Information
  • Council Materials
  • Special Works Materials
  • Bridges Out of Poverty

For an example of how this material can be used see the following…


Of Marinette WI Society of St. Vincent de Paul – St Joseph Conference’s    

“Getting Ahead in a Just Getting’ by World”   Links to Systemic Change Formation Materials: Resources, Getting Ahead, Bridges out of Poverty, as well as presentations on Getting Ahead Preparation, Mentoring overview of process and tools.

1. What is the “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World”?     Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World is a facilitated program to help individuals build their own personal plan to get out of poverty and create sustainability.  It is built on the work and ideas of Dr. Ruby Payne on the hidden rules of economic class, and the subsequent applications of those principles in two books by Philip DeVol (“Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities”, and “Bridges to Sustainable Communities: A system wide, cradle-to-grave approach to Ending Poverty in America”).

This course includes 10 modules with 15 sessions: Getting Started, What’s it like now, Theory of Change, Rich / Poor Gap & How it Works, Hidden Rules of Economic Class, Eleven resources, Stages of Change, Self-assessment of resources, Building resources, Community Assessment, Your Plan for getting from poverty to prosperity, Creating mental models for your personal path out of poverty and for community prosperity, Closing & Transition, Where to Go to build personal and community resources.

2. Typical time to complete the 10 modules in 15 sessions?      Our classes were set up with two classes per week…Monday and Wednesday…for 3 hours…for two months ( with the last month having Mondays only and the final week having two sessions, again Monday and Wednesday. 39-45 hours of class time total.. The answer is two months if the students attend this way.  It can also meet three hours a week for 15 weeks – which is what we did with the 2013 class – they met twice the first week, just to get to know each other and begin the work.  The first week is paperwork, organizational, team building and introductions.  The last week is Graduation Celebration and presentation of your final mental model of your progress in class, as well as preparation and planning for the final group project

3. Typical number of “Investigators” per course?      The GA facilitator manual says the optimum number of investigators is 8-12…no fewer than 6, and the closer to 12 the better for optimum interaction.  It is a local decision.  Investigators can be identified by graduates of the course – based on a need or thought that this person may benefit from the course as well as make a contribution.  Investigators can also be recommended and hand-picked.  Referrals come from agencies and groups that collaborate on service to those in poverty.  In our community that is SSVdP, F-SET with Forward Services, United Way, Rainbow House (Domestic Violence Shelter), Haven of Hope (Homeless Shelter), Community Action Program, Energy Assistance, County Human Services, etc.

4. What is the interview/screening process used to select Investigators? # Interviewers, questions used selection process. What characteristics / criteria do you look for in potential Investigators for success?   Characteristics and/or criteria include: need, motivation, desire for improving one’s life, and we seek those who are able to truly use the program to better their lives and create sustainability.  The initial group process, was working with them on a few home visits prior to offering them the opportunity for the class.  Two Interviewers, just like on a home visit.

5. Where / how were your program facilitators trained? Cost? How many facilitators are recommended for a program?      Goodwill Industries of Upper Michigan and Northern Wisconsin paid the estimated $900 for the licensing training program.  Facilitators completed the coursework (DVD training) and prepared their Lesson Plans.  Facilitators also received additional “training” in the classrooms where we had class, by attending and participating, as well as by reading additional books and materials that the Facilitators were provided by AhaProcess®. The GA program is recommended to be co-facilitated by two facilitators.  Over time, it is desirable that one of the two is a GA graduate.

 6. What skill sets do you look for in potential facilitators?    AhaProcess® has a specific set of required prerequisite courses (e.g. GA Facilitator training, and training in Bridges Out of Poverty constructs) and a list of desired qualities for GA facilitators. Our Students believe that the skills they looked for in their Facilitator included: Ability to speak & present, knowledge of subject matter, training in said topics covered in the course, & of course, the skills to motivate people & show them their resources, a good Facilitator would also know community resources & how to address the difficulties in their community.

7. Do you pay your Investigators during the program?  How much? How is this funded?        The amount  of incentive varies by area (generally equivalent to the hourly wage for a typical class in that area – $15 to $25 per session, paid via cards for gas, groceries, bus or in cash).  The funding came from St. Vincent De Paul and other anonymous donors.  A number of our local churches provided a lunch for sessions. A store voucher for clothing and necessities was also given to the Investigators.

8. What ongoing / mentoring is provided after the program?  By whom? Time commitment?     Mentoring is now an important part of the Society’s recommended support for all GA graduates. The mentors have specific training as well. The course Investigators and facilitators decide what other classes could be offered as follow-up, i.e.  Budgeting and credit classes.  There is also a possibility of a circle group meeting monthly – which is an open invitation to GA graduates to communicate with each other after our course has finished.

9.  Does use of this program require your facilitators to also be trained in the Bridges program and materials?

Facilitators are encouraged to become familiar with the Bridges program, and are REQUIRED to be trained as a Getting Ahead Facilitator and due to the Society’s contract with Aha, both of these training elements will be available from the Society now, at much lower cost.

10. Do you have a network of community resources that the graduates can draw upon to successfully implement their personal plan?   What do those include? How were they developed?  Do they also need to be grounded in Bridges training? Supportive of Vincentian spirituality?     Your group can develop a resource list for immediate needs; a “getting by” list.  You will need to then create a Getting Ahead resource list that will support GA graduates ”get ahead”.  This is a new perspective that must be developed to help  GA graduates in the tough work that starts after graduation.  It will lead to fruitful collaborative relationships in our communities.  In discussion with others at the table, new ideas and perspectives can be added in the mix.  Personal experiences, life lessons, and the sharing of knowledge gained in local experiences helps tremendously.  This sharing provides each Investigator with an “inside” view of what that resource lacked and how it was necessary to ask other questions to gain the information that was necessary to gain a needed resource.  We have added a closing Spiritual Reflection (Scripture reading, reflection and question and closing prayer) at the end of each module – the focus being on the module topic.

11.  Have you incorporated Vincentian spirituality into the program?   We are now developing a set of faith-based spiritual reflections and discussions that can be used with each GA lesson.  The Vincentian Spirituality of caring, compassion, and acceptance of each participant regardless of “where” they are in life, shows a true Vincentian spirit and acceptance of others.  As a facilitator, we were moved each week with the sharing and knowledge that each investigator brought to the table.  It wasn’t about what they could get, rather what they could give!

12. What are your plans to further improve the program’s use in your area?  Is there anything you would do differently if you were starting over?    The plans to improve the program’s use in the area include continued education to the agencies and organizations that we work with in serving those in need.  We would create a continuous program with options for after graduation.  From this first program we realized we need a better understanding of the individual needs and benefits/resources in our community.  We will do funding differently – we will offer the opportunity for other churches, and community groups to be involved by funding the gas cards, lunches and eventually a coordinator/facilitator position.  One of our students wrote “Personally I believe firmly in budget and credit counseling and use of the S.M.A.R.T. goals to use what we have learned in this first course to improve ourselves and our class Investigators.”  More involvement within the community would help tremendously.  An active participation to help with gas cards, meals, supplies, etc. would make this program more grounded in the community and could become self-sufficient in the future.

13. How has use of this program changed what the Society does in your area? Has it altered the share of time / money between meeting immediate needs vs. systemic change?    Our Conference will continue to assist those in need, at risk of homelessness and/or extreme poverty and as we do, we will look for potential candidates for this sustainability program   It created awareness of the issues from local organizations and churches who provided lunches.  We were able to discuss the needs of our Investigators as well as discussing possible solutions for some of the Investigators.

As far as Systematic change, we covered a lot of things in class in reference to the community as a whole and the needs to improve upon from all levels:  organizations and groups, as well as individuals… to create a unified force and goal for change in our community.

One student wrote:  “We have just started the course, but I believe it has opened the door for discussions on change and how to reach change. Individuals who take the course are more aware of their need and ability to be self-sufficient and also the community has become aware of how (the Investigators) can help to make positive, permanent changes through education; how to set SMART goals that we will pursue with vigilance…the whole and the possible solutions with big business with numbers and people to back up some of the concerns. Overall, we did a good job of exposing some of the common dilemmas and starting to address them with people from the community.”

Change is always hard and requires much effort and input from not only the individual asking for the change, but for the community to be supportive of those changes.  The community needs to understand and become familiar with this program so that in the future it can become more supportive and accessible to those contemplating change for their future.  Reaching out to those in need is a necessary component.

14. What is the mix of men vs. women in the course–especially given some of the male / female dynamics in poverty?   In the initial group all Investigators were females except for one couple….and in that particularly instance, due to the mix of personalities, the women in the group were able to encourage the one male to be more outspoken and confident. This single factor actually led to a successful job interview and job for the male Investigator.  I would leave the judgment to the interviewers and referral sources as to the mix of male and female Investigators.

15.  How do you work around the participant’s job schedules?  Nearly all of the working poor we serve are in hourly paid jobs with no flexibility re time off, some of course, work evenings and weekends?  We worked around everyone’s schedule – and luckily found a time good for everyone!  Next round, we may end up at night or after work.

16. How do you handle missed classes? Due to lack of resources (transportation, babysitters, emergencies, “life in poverty”), missed classes seem inevitable.  You want to hold them accountable, but what resources are provided to help them keep up or work around a missed class?   They are allowed two missed classes per AhaProcess commitment required.  Either one of the Facilitators helps them make up what was covered – we cannot share what the group Investigators shared in class, UNLESS signed releases are received. We offered time for the attending Investigators to update the absent member at the next meeting.   We provided the babysitter and paid for the sitter!  We offered to pick them up if necessary, in case of car trouble (which can be frequently the reason for missing appointments).  We gave them gas cards to get to the next session as their pay as Investigators.

Marinette WI Getting Ahead FAQ 10-26-13v T&J handout Vin Fam Coll mtg (Word format for download)

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