Southeast TACE recognizes the dramatic challenges faced by vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies in a time of sharp decreases in resources and heightened demand for services. The impact of order of selection, increased caseload sizes and maintaining qualified staff poses real issues for agencies in achieving performance goals. Implementing TACE Innovations projects in each state is intended to help focus on developing effective service practices and methods (see sidebar) to enhance results for customers and the VR agency.
TACE is committed to assisting agencies to identify evidence-based practices that will improve individual customer results and to learn and embed those practices in policy and operations. The goals of Innovations projects are to:
- Build local capacity to improve and expand employment outcomes;
- Increase understanding and replication of effective employment and rehabilitation practices that result in improved employment outcomes;
- Serve as a catalyst to systems change and improvement at a state and local level;
- Develop, document, and disseminate new and improved theory, policy, practice and knowledge that revolutionize the state of the science in rehabilitation and employment service delivery in the Southeast and nationwide.
What is an Innovations Project?
An Innovations Project is an opportunity for a VR agency to work in partnership with TACE to build on the state’s existing strengths by introducing and integrating proven employment and rehabilitation practices (see sidebar) that are not already in use in the respective state, agency or community. A project may focus on a geographic community (region or municipality), a demographic (e.g., rural) or department (e.g., transition, residential), to implement innovative strategies. It takes a phased approach, starting with a pilot test and progressing to replication and dissemination. TACE will offers individualized training and/or technical assistance for the state to design and execute a project work plan.
Individual projects are dictated by the state’s respective needs, interests and resources as articulated in its annual plan. Options might include:
- Introducing best practices such as Customized Employment.
- Building capacity of staff and providers to implement innovative practices.
- Building systems capacity to integrate evidence-based practices into policy and operations
- Increasing community collaboration
- Creating common language/understanding of strategies for providers, agencies, consumers.
- Improving knowledge about emerging issues, e.g., financial self-sufficiency and asset development or working with traditionally underserved populations.
Each state VR agency has the opportunity to be supported by TACE in at least one Innovations Project. Sites are engaged in projects according to their respective schedules. Timing and design are dictated by such criteria as:
- Documented commitment from VR leadership to support the innovation from agency and partner staff to actively participate.
- Prior experience or interest in innovation
- Staff resources adequate to engage in the initiative
- Clearly defined goals and outcomes for the project in terms of improved customer results
- Local project liaison identified to work with TACE and the state liaison
- Potential linkages to other innovative activities underway in the state
Each project is implemented according to a series of logical steps from design through pilot test and evaluation to replication and sustainability.