Issue Areas

The Research & Planning Division is involved in an array of planning efforts for the Department and community that span across issue areas.

Aging Services

R&P began working in the Aging Services issue area with the development of the 2001 Aging Services Environmental Scan. In 2003, Research & Planning staff partnered with several key stakeholders to support the creation of the Aging Services Council of Central Texas, a community planning body dedicated to the issue of aging services. Currently, Korey Darling and Tonya Pennie participate on the Council and provide support on several of its initiatives.
The most recent local assessment and planning effort in the aging services issue area was led by the Mayor’s Task Force on Aging, a group convened by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell to analyze the state of Central Texas’ fast-growing senior population. Access the 2013 Task Force recommendations and full report.

Early Childhood

A number of collaborative planning efforts work together to support vulnerable Travis County families with young children and advance the quality and accessibility of early childhood education. Tara Carmean and Anna Lisa Conlin, in close partnership with City of Austin staff, United Way Success By 6, and other key issue area leaders to support the work of the Austin/Travis County School Readiness Action Plan. County staff offer varying levels of planning support to several related efforts including the Early Childhood Council, Quality Child Care Consortium, Success By 6 School Readiness Action Plan Leadership Team, and the Early Childhood Stakeholders Group.

Immigrant Issues

The Research & Planning Division led the development and publication of the 2006-2007 Travis County Immigrant Assessment, with guidance and support from community partners and stakeholders. In 2007, following the release of the assessment, the Immigrant Services Network of Austin (ISNA), which had formerly served as a networking/educational group for immigrant service providers, reconvened as a planning and action body around immigrant issues, with planning support from R&P. ISNA has been active in this capacity since 2007 and worked on coordinating service provision, increasing public awareness, and conducting education/outreach to immigrant residents. Currently, Rachel Coff participates in ISNA as a representative of HHS.

Public Health

While the Department has a planner working in the Office of the County Executive who is the public health lead for TCHHS, Tara Carmean performs research, analysis and community planning support in this issue area.

Workforce Development

Travis County continues to work closely with other funders, Austin Community College, and community-based providers to develop and implement service-delivery models that better leverage investments in our community to create easier access and greater impact for both job seekers and employers. Results of this work include:

  • Creation of the Rapid Employment Model and Gainful Employment Model programs at Workforce Solutions (WFS),
  • Enhanced partnerships with WFS and Goodwill Industries of Central Texas to expand access to employment related services through County Community Centers for residents in the outlying areas of the county,
  • Continuation of long-standing partnerships with the Travis County Parks Department to create work-based learning opportunities within our parks, and
  • Development of an ongoing partnership with the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin to evaluate the impact of local investments in employment and training services for adults.

Lawrence Lyman and Brittain Ayres serve as the project leads for these efforts. In addition, Lawrence Lyman serves on the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Board.

Planning Roles

The Research & Planning Division fills a variety of roles to advance planning efforts in the Department and community.

Collaborative Problem Solving

Community Problem Solving is a process through which a diverse group of people come together to define problems, identify solutions, and jointly apply resources to solve them. Only by combining the knowledge, skills and resources of a broad array of people and organizations can communities understand the underlying nature of shared problems, and develop effective, locally feasible solutions. The Research & Planning Division implements this work through several programs:

  • We are developing a training curriculum called the Community Solutions Project, designed for both department and community stakeholders who are engaged in community problem solving. The goal of the Community Solutions Project is to build and enhance the skills, knowledge, and habits required for effective collaborative problem solving. We plan to offer curriculum-based training and instruction in the near future.
  • We support the development and implementation of core training for the HHS department around leadership, problem solving, and collaboration.
  • We offer consultation to collaborative groups, nonprofit agencies, and our service provision partners on a variety of issues related to problem solving and group process, such as: working through group conflict; how to move forward with big or complex processes; how teams can make decisions; appropriately incorporating stakeholder input and participation; planning special meetings, work sessions, or retreats; and translating strategic goals or plans into action.
  • We offer a community leadership final field placement for masters level social work interns through the UT-Austin School of Social Work. R&P also coordinates field instruction collaborative efforts across the department.

Currently, this body of work is led by Senior Planner Rachel Coff, with support and contributions from the entire R&P team.

Performance Measurement and Evaluation

The Research & Planning Division coordinates the Department’s performance measurement and evaluation efforts. This work monitors and promotes the quality and impact of internal and contracted social service programs to support strategic decision-making and partnership as well as responsible stewardship of public dollars.

Core functions include:

  • Production of the annual Community Impact Report which details investment, programmatic, and client demographic information; assesses program performance; maps client and service information; and highlights community conditions across issue areas and populations;
  • Alignment of the Department’s social service investments with its strategic plan and linking the investments to best practices;
  • Facilitation of process and impact evaluations;
  • Development and enhancement of data-collection and data-quality systems; and
  • Provision of technical assistance and training about performance measurement and program evaluation.

Brittain Ayres,Courtney Bissonnet Lucas, and Rochelle Olivares currently serve as the project leads for these efforts.. They work with colleagues and community-based service providers to coordinate evaluations and strengthen performance measures and measurement systems.

Social Service Investment Planning

The Research & Planning Division coordinates the Travis County Health and Human Services Department’s social service investment planning efforts, under the direction of the Department's Executive Management Team. This work includes leading a cross-departmental team of issue area experts to conduct cyclical assessment, planning, and evaluation for each issue area in which the Department invests. For more information about HHS’s social service investment process, click here or contact Lawrence Lyman.