IBM and Covenant House: Lifetime Partners in Service to Homeless Youth

IBM and Covenant House: Lifetime Partners in Service to Homeless Youth

Guest Blog by Kevin Ryan, President and CEO of Covenant House
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 10:00am

CAMPAIGN: IBM Problem Solving in Communities


For 43 years, Covenant House, the largest charity in the Americas serving homeless, runaway and trafficked young people, has been an organization of storytellers. And we have plenty of heart-lifting stories to tell: we reached more than 56,000 youth last year in 27 cities across 6 countries. My recent book, Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, told the true stories of six teenagers who faced homelessness and other dire threats while searching for the bright futures they deserved.

Stories can open our eyes and break our hearts in unique ways, but they never tell the full, rich truth of how well we are doing, where we are struggling, and how we can help our kids more effectively. Our donors, our staff and volunteers, and our young people themselves need and deserve more specific knowledge about how and why our efforts to help homeless youth work, and how we can do better. We need data as well as detailed stories, as we strive to improve the services we provide, and make sure we are supplying the most effective and meaningful interventions. We need to add meaningful data and analysis – as well as love, food, safe shelter, educational services, medical care, and counseling – to our list of management tools.

Enter IBM, with its trademark expertise. We are the proud recipients of an IBM Impact Grant to help us perfect how we collect and use data, and we are so grateful to have IBM on our team to fight youth homelessness. So far, the IBM consultant team has interviewed more than 30 Covenant House staff from across our federation, ranging from executive directors to front-line program staff, to learn more about how the agency is collecting – and learning from – our program data.

While sites report challenges around creating sufficient staff and technological capacity to collect and monitor data effectively, they also are excited about our increased abilities to track client progress and learn more about how we are making an impact with young people. Despite the challenges, our site teams are enthusiastic about the potential to improve our data collection and create new tools for measuring our effectiveness. We see the virtues of a robust culture around data and performance measurement – a culture that will help us help more kids as it is embraced at all staff levels. Our Covenant House sites have an appetite to share their best practices with each other – and similarly to learn from their colleagues in business. Having a corporate partner like IBM to give us new skills and make us more efficient and effective has been priceless.

This is not the first time IBM has partnered with Covenant House to help vulnerable young people. From early on in our work, IBM has been a corporate friend that shared not just the time and treasure of its company and workers, but also its talent. Over the decades since our founding, IBM executives have served tirelessly on our international board of directors, and more recently have joined in our executive Sleep Out movement to raise awareness and funds for our work with homeless and trafficked youth.

I was so happy to join a panel discussion for the kickoff of IBM’s Employee Charitable Contribution Campaign in July. IBM’s participation is crucial to the young people we work with. Thanks to IBM, these young people know that people out in the world care about them and about their hopes and dreams. They know that IBM and its employees are giving of themselves, to make life easier for vulnerable kids. Some of our kids have never had a birthday party, or a pep talk, or a sense that anyone cared for them before they came to Covenant House. Thanks to IBMers and others like them, our kids feel valued. Thanks to IBM, our work will be better informed by data, courtesy of people who understand it’s not enough just to mean well. We also have to do well.

Kevin Ryan is the President and CEO of Covenant House. Covenant House serves more than 50,000 homeless kids each year, giving them the love and support they need to find their way off of the streets.


Related Resources:

Learn About Accountability & Transparency at Covenant House

Support Covenant House

Learn More About IBM Impact Grants