Episode 046: Matthew Billings, Project Manager at The Providence Children and Youth Cabinet

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In this episode of MEP, Matthew Billings, Project Manager at The Providence Children and Youth Cabinet joins us to talk about the importance of developing great systems for organizations and about how to engage the community if you’re looking to make an impact.

Guest Bio

Matthew BillingsMatthew Billings grew up in Vermont. As a middle school student, he used to accompany his father who was doing mentoring work in prisons. It was at this time that he began to have a clear understanding of the inequities that exist, and these visits made a huge impact on him. As he went through formal education, community service was at the core of everything that he did.

After earning a degree in English in college, he did 2-3 years of work for Americorps and Habitat for Humanity.

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, Matthew came back to Providence and focused on programs for the K-12 spectrum, running quality programs for kids and youth.

He was Program Director for City Year Rhode Island then did start-up work with Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE) through the Department of Education Juvenile Justice. After that, he became Program Director at Inspiring Minds. While still employed at Inspiring Minds, he volunteered for 2 years at Providence Children and Youth Cabinet, where he is now the Program Director.

Show Notes:

(01:40) Matthew’s background

(08:14) You’re focused on teams and systems and leadership. How have you applied that to the current problems that you’re seeing and you’re trying to address with the Children and Youth Cabinet? Try to think of it from a kid’s perspective. The cradle to career thing in the (PCYC) website. What is the experience for the child and what are you and your organization doing to create a great experience for them?

(09:06) Collective impact is aligning initiatives and organizations and individuals around common agenda, shared data, communications.

(10:05) Part of our commitment is “How can we change the way we do business as a city and as a network to better serve and secure really powerful outcomes for children and youth?”

(12:42) You mentioned programming a couple of times. I know the kind of the structure of the organization that you have… How does that come together when you’re putting up a program and what does it look like as a student? What sort of program can I expect or can I look forward to?

(15:05) We are piloting a 4-week program to create an experience for these kids so that they have some academic and social, emotional programming leading up to their first day in kindergarten.

(17:24) It sounds like a program incubator, to implement and try out and test new programs in a for-profit business with a data-driven approach to it.

(18:16) We take these non-traditional approaches to problem solving. We bring in our unusual suspects to help lead and think with us.

(19:02) The level of breakthrough we need to see is not going to come solely from our traditional approaches but from more progressive approaches.

(19:14) I think it’s really important to try and get as many perspective as possible, and feedback into this sort of conversation…. It’s going to be everybody working together and poking holes and making sure that works. And focusing on the kids.

(20:55) How do you determine the sample of students that you’re bringing in, the background, the demographics, all those sorts of stuff? You mention the data driven approach. One of the things that I saw was this grid (on your website), with the goals and timeline for students, and what the indicators for those goals. How do you determine the data that you’re trying to get out of this to determine if it’s a pilot that will move forward or not move forward?

(25:32) Let’s talk about progress. What have you seen as far as success so far? Do you have any specific evidence-based numbers or anything like that showing that it’s making an impact on the students?

(30:46) How do we bring this systematic data-driven approach to other school leaders, to people to understand exactly, and the way you mobilize different groups and strengths in the city? How do we do that, across the nation, and other towns, to make sure that we’re leveraging people and systems the right way?

(33:42) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

*John Muir



Twitter: @providencecyc

Email: matthew_billings@brown.edu


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