Check out this great video on the early days of the Saginaw Open Table Movement.
Listen to Byron tell his story about his climb out of poverty after serving his country in the military.
Listen to Jessica's story of resilience after enduring trauma in the foster care system.
Listen to Tiffany tell about how her table helped her to be a home owner.
Listen to Courtney tell her story about working toward a good career and a better life.
The Open Table Model: Part of a successful Re-entry Initiative
The Open Table model involves a group of 7-12 volunteers giving a year of their lives to provide direct support to someone who is committed to getting out of poverty. These groups are typically based in a faith community. The model has grown to demonstrations in over 20 states in the United States, and is currently being used with multiple populations, including young adults aging out of foster care, persons with complex behavioral health and substance abuse needs, domestic violence, trauma survivors including youth who have been sexually trafficked, and others. The Open Table model is being used in recidivism reduction for adult offenders coming out of prison, starting with efforts in Missouri and other states.
Open Table’s Theory of Change
Open Table has developed a Theory of Change, as part of its ongoing path toward being granted evidence-based practice status. The following are the five core non-negotiable elements of Open Table, without which outcomes are unlikely to be achieved, each of which is vital to successful recidivism reduction:
· Relationship. Open Table is about a faith community being in direct relationship with those in poverty. The relationships between Table members and returning citizens is at the heart of the effectiveness of the model, and the ability of the returning citizen to establish long lasting relationships with their Table and with other members of the community is crucial to success.
· Faith and a shared purpose. Through a shared purpose, a faith community builds a powerful understanding of the human potential of each and every individual, and of how to actualize true love for each other through mutual and humble service. Through expression and deepening of their individual faith/spiritual perspectives, Table members and returning citizens affirm and deepen their own sense of wholeness, and of their humanity and shared purpose on the Table.
· A Safe Place. A community creates Tables as a way of understanding that community and personal judgment may have contributed to poverty. We have to create a safe place for a community and Tables to recognize that poverty is not about character but rather about experience. We also have to create a safe place for our mutual growth as we support returning citizens in their journey out of poverty. The safe place is free from blame and shame, moves at the pace of the returning citizen, and is based on the returning citizen’s own definition of success, culture, and support.
· Transformation and Reconciliation. Transformation occurs when a community is released from preconceived notions of poverty, people in poverty, and poverty solutions, including transaction-based interventions. We understand the mutuality which is built through being in direct, face to face, and long term relationship with those in poverty. As the community moves into mutual, direct relationship with those who are in poverty, reconciliation between races, social groups, and families begins to occur and transformation builds a mutual community sharing of an abundance of heart, spirit, and of intellectual and social capital. This shift forever abandons the paternalistic, dependent model of change.
· Local determination and ownership. The Open Table process provides a foundational, consistent, tested, and proven process for addressing poverty, and provides training for communities. However -- exactly how the community of business, non-profits, government and faith sectors form into a local movement, how expansion, focus on populations, and how the effort scope proceeds are all locally determined and managed as part of a community vision of their system of care and under a shared purpose. Individual faith communities are the implementers of Open Table at the returning citizen level and make final determinations at the model level.
Making a Collective Impact
The Missouri Department of Corrections and Mission Missouri along with other agency partners, service providers, community organizations and members, returning citizens and their families, all working together can make a collective impact. A collaborative approach generates a higher quality of process, progress and outcomes. Organizations are more effective at impacting social problems when they work together with a common agenda and engage in mutually reinforcing activities. This idea is often referred to as collective impact. Policies and solutions that demonstrably work can increase trust of government at the local and even the state level, particularly when the public, private and civic sectors find ways of collaborating.
Leading by Convening
The traditional “Top-down leadership” model is that one person/group makes decisions and shares with others for implementation. An alternative model is “Bottom-up leadership.” This model allows for those affected by the issue to bring their drive for change into a learning partnership based on research, data and diverse perspectives. “Leading by convening” merges elements of both leadership models. This model requires that everyone in the Re-entry Collaborative embrace the value that everyone else brings to the group. Together the group defines success, identifies and solves barriers. This is a “shared leadership” strategy that will increase effectiveness and support sustainability. We will refer to this model as a Co-Investment Partnership.
Inviting Organizations and Citizens to the Partnership
Both stakeholders and recipients should be invited to participate in the Co-Investment Partnership. Who should be at the table to ensure real progress?
· returning citizens
· family members of returning citizens
· service providers
· agency partners
· community organizations
· business owners
· citizens of the community
Identify people who are knowledgeable about the broader landscape and who will challenge your assumptions. Ask those already invited to the table who else should be invited to the table.
According to literature put out by the National Institute of Corrections and many others in the field, the research indicates that for a correctional system to be effective at reducing recidivism it must have collaboration between all criminal justice partners, and they all must be on the same page and invested into the plan. Collaborative participants will fall into four basic categories:
· Corrections and Agency Partners: The Co-Investment Partnership should include leadership and decision makers who will need to embrace, implement and sustain decisions that are made.
· Service Providers: The Co-Investment Partnership should include representatives from agencies and organizations that provide services returning citizens will need to be successful.
· Community Organizations and Members: It is also very valuable for community organizations to be members of the Co-Investment Partnership. Better outcomes will be achieved if community organizations see the value or removing barriers to returning citizens. (The local YMCA by offering free memberships to returning citizens might just provide an environment mixed with enough pro-social activity, stress release and positive usage of free time to make the difference between successful completion of parole and return to prison.)
· Returning Citizens and Families: The Co-Investment Partnership should include people who can share their experiences of incarceration and reentry. Allow those who have been the recipients of services previously to have input into the design of new services. In Missouri, the Department of Corrections has a track record of including recipients of services into design of services. In a co-investment partnership, this could be increased even more through purposeful additions of returning citizens in the partnership.
Identify those who have been successful in a transition to the community and then from supervision. The Collaborative should acknowledge the value in knowledge and life experience that returning citizens bring to the conversation. Perhaps, they are the missing architects of successful reentry.
Ongoing Conversation with the Recipients of Services
The goal of the Reentry Collaborative is to design services that will remove barriers to success for returning citizens. It is valuable to hear the feedback of those who are receiving the services. We should never assume that we know the answer to a barrier. Even when professionals have years of experience behind them the development of solutions through conversation with returning citizens is valuable for multiple reasons:
· It will increase the recipients’ understanding of the service.
· It will earn “buy-in” from the recipients.
· The service will probably be more effective.
· Family members of returning citizens will also benefit from being part of the conversation.
The conversation with those being served should be ongoing. It is too easy to go off course if we lose touch with recipients of services. The most successful re-entry efforts will be dedicated to continuously improving the model and services they provide. They will do this by staying in conversation with returning citizens.
“The longer organizations stay in touch with beneficiaries, gathering information as to how services provided have assisted them in their lives, the more and more powerful a case for impact they can make, and the better and better they can refine their programs.” (Kathleen Kelly Janus, Stanford University)
The Art of Co-Investment Partnerships
Co-investment is when people or systems decide to jointly address societal problems they can’t handle on their own. An example of positive co-investment is how Palm Beach County Florida decided to address the Opioid crisis. All systems banded together with the community and developed a co-investment approach. As a result, they are one of the first counties in the United States to see reversals of the grim outcomes of the opioid crisis. Co-investment is sometimes difficult because systems and the community may not have experience working together. Individuals working within systems may feel overloaded and not able to focus on collaborative efforts, even when in the long term, the collaborative efforts can decrease their workloads.
How do Co-Investment Partnerships Contribute to Successful Reentry?
Recidivism effects the correctional facility; the local law enforcement agencies; local child welfare; local housing and addiction treatment; behavioral health outcomes. Historically, each system makes their own independent policies. As a result, correctional facilities may not do extensive work with communities and community agencies. Successful re-entry involves careful co-investment in design of a joint strategy to have a re-entry effort.
Developing the Effectiveness of the Co-Investment Partnership
As trust develops within the collaborative a change in interaction should be noticed. At first, collaborative members will share information with each other. Then, they will begin to network. They will ask each other for input on issues. The goal of the collaborative is to engage the members to work and lead together. This will be transformational.
Challenges of Co-Investment Partnerships
Co-Investment partnerships can be challenging because staff from each system are rarely trained to work together. Each system has their own societal mandate and training. For example, the child welfare system and the mental health system have very different mandates. What are the societal mandates of systems and communities?
· Correctional Facility: Public Safety and Rehabilitation.
· Local Law Enforcement: Public Safety
· Local Child Welfare: Child Protection
· Local Behavioral Health: Emotional Well-Being of the Public
· Local Housing: Safe and Affordable Housing for Persons in Poverty
· Local Substance Abuse Treatment: Ensuring that Persons with Addiction get Treatment
Co-investment is Worth It.
We know co-investment is the best way to implement efforts to serve people with complex needs. The community, government, local systems, agencies, as well as faith organizations can solve major societal problems if they work together.
How can the Co-Investment Partnership empower the individual returning citizen to be successful?
There are a few principles that should guide our work with returning citizens.
· Self Determination
“When we do change to people they experience it as violence but when people do change for themselves they experience it as liberation.” (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School) Within the parameters of parole guidelines, returning citizens should be encouraged to make their own choices and decisions. Unless the returning citizen owns the plan it will not be followed.
· Person Centered Planning
Starting with people counters the tendency to see people as the problem. There should be a clear focus on the future of the returning citizen as opposed to his/her past. This planning process will be driven by the individual interests, dreams, needs, strengths and cultural/familial values of the returning citizen.
· Strength-Based Practice
This is a mindset of focusing on the strengths of the returning citizen. What resources do they possess that will allow them to be resilient in the face of adversity?
· Diverse Success Factors
The causes for a return to prison are diverse and complex, including mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, and poor self image. Counseling, peer support and pro-social activities may be just as significant to the returning citizen’s success as housing, employment, education or job training.
Prevention Planning Steps:
· Supportive Prevention Planning
The prevention plan will be designed by the returning citizen and his/her Open Table. The initial goal of the table members will be to build trusting relationship with the returning citizens. This will be the foundation for all of the work that will follow.
· Pre-Release Prevention Plannin
Timing is important. Designing a prevention plan pre-release is more effective than doing so later in response to risk behaviors once back in the community. This allows for a discussion that is more supportive than threatening. For this reason, the ideal situation is for the Open Table to begin prior to release.
Elements of Prevention Planning:
Dr. John VanDenBerg, a pioneer of the Wraparound model and consultant to Open Table, developed and implemented a study of outcomes associated with twenty individuals that completed the Table process. Key findings include:
· 95% of graduates remained in relationship with their Table members.
· 80% of graduates believed they have the skill to be able to access help and ideas from other people in the community beyond their table members.
· 85% of graduates believed they have the skills of being able to get through problems and crises better than before.
· 85% of graduates had a better job and/or were in a college or technical school after their Table experiences ended.
· 95% of graduates reported that they were optimistic about their future ability to be self-supported.
· 100% of graduates had more optimism about the future and feel they are heading in the right direction.
Key elements of prevention planning would include:
· Determine Risk Behaviors
Together, this group will discuss problematic risk behaviors and their consequences, identify situations associated with risk behaviors, brainstorm possible solutions for reducing or preventing risk behaviors, draft a prevention plan, and then implement the prevention plan. Problematic risk behaviors would include: associating with an antisocial peer group, drug and alcohol dependency, lack of self-control, an antisocial belief system, unemployment, homelessness, poor self esteem, etc.
· Plan Only Necessary Interventions
The prevention plan that is designed should not include interventions the returning citizen does not need. Studies indicate that an effective plan will be structured in a way to account for approximately half of the returning citizen’s time for the first year of parole. After release, ongoing support from the community is vital. Many contend that peer support is the most significant factor for success. Old friends and family have caused many returning citizens to engage again in problematic risk behaviors. Below is one example of how peer support helped a returning citizen to be successful.
"I don't know where I'd be without Paul," said Vitale, of his mentor and friend, Paul Mabry, pastor for Bethel Church of the Nazarene in Macomb Township. "My dad lives in Hawaii and I didn't have a lot of positive influences. Paul is obviously somebody who has his life together." Vitale, who worked in electrical design and repair for the auto industry before he went to prison six years ago, was hooked on mentoring after hearing about its ability to reduce the return rate.
On the other end, Mabry's family and friends were concerned about his decision to spend time with an ex-con. "I was a bit nervous going in," Mabry admitted. "I've never even had a speeding ticket." Now, more than one year later, Mabry and Vitale talk and text regularly, meet for coffee and recently shared barbecue ribs in Mabry's back yard after building patio steps together. "You don't have to have special skills or know prison culture to be a mentor," Mabry said. "You don't have to fear for your life. You just have to be able to love people. And pick up the phone to say: 'How ya doin'?' "
· Discover Individual motivators
Through conversation with the returning citizen, discover what motivates him or her on an individual basis. This information is used to “self-motivate” the returning citizen. An effective strategy is to assist returning citizens in becoming engaged with activities that interest them. The intention is to capture their attention and enthusiasm and to remove them from boring or risky situations. Hopefully, this will also expose them to other people who model socially appropriate behavior and give them the opportunity to develop new skills.