2016 AmeriCorps State and National Symposium

The 2016 AmeriCorps State and National Symposium took place on September 20-23, 2016, at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. The Symposium was required for commissions and national and tribal programs funded in the 2016–2017 grant year.

Each year, CNCS delivers a multi-day Symposium for the leadership of AmeriCorps State and National grantees at State Service Commissions, multi-state programs, programs operating in a territory without a commission, tribal programs, and tribal planning grantees. The AmeriCorps State and National Symposium offers an opportunity to learn more about grant requirements and best practices, build relationships with CNCS staff at all levels, and network with colleagues from a variety of programs. The event is designed to build the AmeriCorps network and strengthen programming and service experiences across the country. Participants include executive directors, program officers, and financial officers who manage AmeriCorps funds and programs. The Symposium is particularly beneficial for executive directors and staff of AmeriCorps State and National prime grantee organizations who are new to AmeriCorps. Attendance at the Symposium is by invitation only.

Pre-Symposium Events

  • Commission Investment Funds Meeting (Priority Performance Area 3) on Tuesday, September 20, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (state commissions only)
  • Tribal Grantee Meeting on Tuesday, September 20, 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM (2016 tribal grantees only)
  • Tribal Grantee Meeting on Wednesday, September 21, 9:00 – 11:30 AM (2016 tribal grantees only)

Symposium Agenda

Symposium Presentations

Each session presented at the Symposium is listed below, along with a session description, videos (where applicable), and the list of documents used in the presentation. Click on each item to access the document or video.

Tuesday Pre-Symposium Events

Commission Investment Funds Meeting
This pre-conference workshop is intended to orient commission staff and their consultants working in the Commission Investment Funds (CIF) Priority Performance Area 3 to the grant and its associated activities and requirements. Through lecture, guest speakers, and a group activity, participants will learn about the CNCS philosophy and approach to evaluation capacity building; understand requirements and expectations of the CIF grant; become oriented to resources and lessons learned from ongoing evaluation capacity building efforts; and understand how to leverage planned CNCS technical assistance efforts. Participants will have an opportunity for networking, collaboration, and activity planning.

Tribal Grantee Meeting
As AmeriCorps Indian Tribal grantees, it is important to establish connections with other programs serving Native communities and to strengthen the working relationship with CNCS and AmeriCorps State and National Program Officers. This session will provide an opportunity for the tribal grantees to network with each other and recognize contributions made by programs and the investments made by CNCS. Additionally, grantees will have the opportunity to meet with AmeriCorps Program Officers and CNCS leadership.

Wednesday Pre-Symposium Events and Symposium Kick-off

Tribal Affinity Group Meeting
The Tribal Affinity Group Meeting is an opportunity for all tribal planning and program grantees to network and share ideas and best practices about AmeriCorps program development, recruitment, and program management.

Tribal Program and Commission Meet and Greet
All Tribal program and Commission Staff are invited to attend to network and exchange information on programs and resources available across states to support tribal programs and AmeriCorps members.

Symposium Kick-off
Wendy Spencer, Chief Executive Officer, and Bill Basl, Director of AmeriCorps State and National, will launch the 2016 AmeriCorps State and National Symposium. Attendees will share 2015-2016 highlights and learn about new initiatives in development at CNCS.

Grants Compliance: Got Grant. Now What?
This session will help fiscal and program staff understand the basic concepts and responsibilities of managing CNCS grants. Presenters will provide an overview of the uniform guidance, CNCS regulations and award terms and conditions, key accounting system requirements, written policies and procedures, internal controls, budgets, match, timesheets, budget controls, financial reporting, documentation, audits, and other related financial requirements.

Guiding Subgrantees in Performance Measurement
This session will focus on the unique perspective of State Service Commissions and how they can best support their subgrantees in creating high quality performance measures. From outreach to application review and throughout the program year, commissions have a unique role in managing and strengthening subgrantee performance measures. This workshop is a hands-on, interactive session that will take an in-depth look at performance measures across the CNCS focus areas. The session will also introduce new performance measurement training and review tools specifically for commission staff.

Office of Inspector General: Safeguarding Federal Funds
As AmeriCorps grantees, commissions and programs are responsible for all aspects of grant management – and for being good stewards of public resources. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is a key partner is the safeguarding of the public trust. The OIG provides agency oversight to ensure adequate internal controls are in place to safeguard program and taxpayer dollars, executes an annual audit plan, and conducts investigations of AmeriCorps programs and personnel.

This session will provide guidance on important elements of grant oversight. Presenters will discuss indicators of fraud, current audit findings, and provide instructions on improving grantee accountability. This session will also help AmeriCorps State and National grantees identify fraud indicators; understand common investigative processes; recognize key strategies for deterring fraud, waste, and abuse; and understand the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Research and Evaluation: What is data analytics anyway?
Data analytics is simply what you do to turn data into useful information. This session will provide a better understanding of what data analytics is and how AmeriCorps State and National grantees may use it in their organizations. Participants will hear from colleagues about simple ways they are using data analytics, and examine practical considerations any organization should have to be successful in doing so. Participants will also discuss how data analytics can fit into broader research and evaluation activities. The session will close with office hours with CNCS Office of Research and Evaluation staff to discuss data analytics and other evaluation issues in more detail.

AmeriCorps National Programs Meeting
This is optional meeting with the Director of AmeriCorps State and National. This session will consist of brief remarks from the Director and Q&A with all participants. All planning grant, Education Award Programs, national programs, and multi-state program directors and staff are invited.

Commission Executive Director Issue Forum
This is an advanced session designed for State Service Commission Executive Directors in their role as grant-makers. The session will focus on two critical issues facing communities across the country: civil unrest and the breakdown of trust between police and community members, and the growing prescription drug and opioid abuse crisis. Participants will hear from current AmeriCorps State program directors focused on these issues, and from the state commissions that fund them. Through presentations and peer exchange, commission directors will learn specific steps they can take to cultivate new programs to address these challenges which are priorities in the FY 2017 AmeriCorps grant competition.

CNCS Updates
During this session, CNCS staff will provide updates on new initiatives, organizational developments, and guidance for AmeriCorps State and National grantees.

Thursday: Symposium Events

Business Meeting: What’s the plan? First Steps to Develop Standard Operating Procedures
When disaster strikes, survivors often turn to their State Service Commissions to support volunteer and donations management, among other services. A disaster Standard Operating Procure (SOP) will help commissions meet their disaster response and recovery commitments as well as ensure their “blue skies work” continues with as little interruption as possible. During this session, commissions and subject matter experts will identify three top priority areas of the SOP, and in small groups, begin drafting their initial SOPs. These draft SOPs will continue to be refined over the next few months with a draft in place prior to the 2017 Disaster Services Commission Convening.

Business Meeting: America’s Service Commissions Mentor Program
This is a meeting of State Service Commission staff who are participating in the America’s Service Commissions Mentor Program in 2016.

Morning Plenary: New Opportunities for National Service in Education
In this plenary, CNCS staff will lead a panel discussion on a variety of opportunities for service programs in the education field, including the implications of current policy, regulatory, and legislative initiatives.

Grants Compliance: Financial Self-Check
What are the most effective methods to monitor grant-related financial management systems? This session will help AmeriCorps State and National grantees conduct self and/or subawardee financial monitoring. Participants will learn how to use a risk-based monitoring process to prevent, detect, and enforce program requirements.

AmeriCorps Program Development: Lessons Learned - What I Wish I Knew in Year 1
This session will provide an opportunity to learn about the successes and challenges of managing an AmeriCorps program from a variety of AmeriCorps program and commission leaders. It will include a panel discussion of common problems in the first year of an AmeriCorps program’s operation and recommendations for navigating the challenges to build strong new AmeriCorps programs.

Research and Evaluation: Grantee Panel - Using Evaluation Results to Learn and Improve
In this session, participants will learn about the findings from high quality AmeriCorps State and National evaluations conducted by small and large grantees in a variety of focus areas. Panelists will share how AmeriCorps programs delivering housing, child abuse prevention, employment, and education interventions are using evaluation results to improve their programs and expand the impact in their communities.

Ideation AmeriCorps: Innovation in National Service
Ideation AmeriCorps is a series of workshops and interactive discussions led by Bill Basl, the Director of AmeriCorps State and National. The session will share the results of past Ideation events, including specific, innovative ideas for using national service programs to address today’s national and local challenges. Participants will brainstorm how innovation can become a part of daily national service work and share best practices from their own organizations. This session is open to all attendees at the Symposium.

National Service Criminal History Checks 101
This session will cover the three Ds of National Service Criminal History Checks: (1) Do the right checks; (2) Do them on time; and (3) Document, document, document!

Luncheon Plenary and Harkin AmeriCorps Awards Presentation
During this luncheon plenary, CNCS leadership will present the 2016 Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Programming and Service Awards.

Grants Compliance: Budget Management
A well-developed budget can be a roadmap to help an organization achieve its programmatic and financial objectives. In this session, participants will review the components of a compliant and competitive budget, develop budget strategies and best practices to meet program requirements, and discuss the many factors influencing post-award budget management.

A Tale of Three Floods: Disaster Case Studies from South Carolina, Missouri, and West Virginia
Three states each experienced historic flooding that affected multiple communities. In these situations, the State Service Commissions in South Carolina, Missouri, and West Virginia provided critical support to their states’ disaster responses using very different strategies. This session will provide an overview of each commission’s response and recovery efforts and discuss preparation steps that may have been taken to strengthen the disaster response ahead of time. The session will also provide attendees the opportunity to discuss these strategies and how they might be useful for other commissions and states.

Continuity Planning 101: Ten Elements of Program Continuity
Staff turnover is one of the most common challenges in the national service field. It affects operations at all levels, from site supervision to program leadership. Ensuring that programs are well prepared to deal with planned and unplanned transitions is essential to the success of AmeriCorps. This session will highlight several important considerations in planning for program continuity, such as timelines, financial obligations, record-keeping, member support, technology, and relationship management.

State of the Evidence: Education and National Service
This workshop will review the body of evidence generated by research and program evaluations on education programs previously or currently supported by CNCS. Studies included in the presentation have achieved strong levels of evidence. Participants will learn about promising education interventions and contextual factors for success. An interactive portion of the workshop will engage participants in identifying knowledge gaps and important guidelines for practitioners wishing to implement successful models. Commissions, tribal programs, education grantees, and those interested in evidence-based programming would benefit from attending this session.

Empowering Veterans Through National Service
This session will provide an opportunity to learn about a variety of approaches to engaging veterans in national service programs. Speakers representing AmeriCorps members, state commissions, organizations that serve veterans, and national nonprofits will share their experiences and lessons learned. This session will also include time for Q&A with the speakers.

AmeriCorps State Commission Meeting
This is optional meeting with the Director of AmeriCorps State and National. Commission staff are invited to discuss ways to maximize AmeriCorps resources in all states. This session will also include time for Q&A with the director.

Friday: Symposium Events and Wrap-up

School Turnaround Grantee Meeting
This session will include a facilitated discussion with 2016-2017 School Turnaround AmeriCorps commission and program grantees on topics of interest, including key lessons learned from the School Turnaround AmeriCorps National Evaluation.

Updates from the Chief Grants Officer
Join the Chief Grants Officer for the latest news in grants administration and financial management, including updates on National Service Criminal History Checks, federal debt and debt delinquencies, the Government Accountability Office audit of CNCS, and changes in overtime rules. Participants will also review the process for self-checking the System for Award Management (SAM) in order to avoid delays in the federal grant award process. This session will include a significant amount of time for Q&A with CNCS staff and audience discussion.

Continuity Planning 201: Developing Transition Tools and Resources
This session is designed for participants who have attended previous continuity planning sessions, and it will build on the AmeriCorps Program Continuity Planning 101: Ten Elements of Program Continuity session provided on September 22. This will be a highly interactive workshop, focused on analyzing case studies and developing transition tools to take back to local programs and organizations. Participants will explore how to successfully deal with staff transitions at various levels to help ensure smooth and continuous program operations.

Online Resources for AmeriCorps State and National Grantees
This session is a live demonstration of the National Service Knowledge Network and the new Learning Management System (LMS). The presenter will highlight training resources available to AmeriCorps State and National grantees including how to access online courses via the LMS. This session will be most useful for program and commission staff who provide direct training and technical assistance to sites, members, and/or subgrantees on a regular basis.

Research and Evaluation: Laying the Groundwork Before Your First Evaluation
Evaluation success requires careful planning in the earliest stages of program design and implementation. In this session, participants will learn five critical activities to undertake in the first three years of AmeriCorps funding to lay the groundwork for future evaluations. They will also discuss how to achieve key milestones in program design, development of data collection and performance measurement systems, staff capacity, planning, and learning.

Reasonable Accommodations and Tips for Running an Inclusive Service Program
AmeriCorps grantees, commissions, and programs employ and work with employers who hire qualified people with disabilities. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. This session will provide guidance on important elements of using JAN services, the employment title of the Americans With Disabilities Act and its Amendments, the Rehab Act Section 504, addressing issues programs/grantees face with disability inclusion, and implementing effective reasonable accommodation.

Symposium Wrap-up
During this session, CNCS staff will share highlights and important takeaways of the 2016 Symposium.

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