2015: Year in Review

We’ve wrapped up another fantastic year at PRA and embarking on our 28th year of operation. One our traditions, both on the blog and at our end-of-year staff meeting, is to reflect on the hard work we have done and get energized for the year ahead.

At our staff meeting, Pam encouraged staff to guess the 2015 word of the year–the word that best sums up what’s happened at PRA throughout the year. Guesses ranged from “rollercoaster” to “reinvigorate,” but only Dan’s guess of “maintenance” was close to the mark. The 2015 word of the year: steady.

Why steady? Our work in 2015 was consistent — no major project or staffing changes. We have created new models that take advantage of new technologies to deliver services, such as virtual meetings and web-based training and resources, while maintaining our reputation for strong, comprehensive technical assistance provision and quality research. We have adjusted our benefits package in recognition of the changing needs of our staff, and are developing new programs and policies to better enhance our wellness. Even though we may encounter “hurdles” (our 2014 Word of the Year), we as an organization are filled with strong, nimble teams passionate about their work.

Looking Back

This past year has been an exciting one for PRA. We welcomed 10 new staff members, launched several projects and initiatives, increased the number and variety of staff events, and gave ourselves a makeover. Some of our highlights include:

  • Project Awards–This year has been one of growth for PRA! We have broadened our firm’s focus through the award of SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness this August, and have established partnerships with firms and foundations to enhance our work in the criminal justice and juvenile justice fields (e.g., our Behavioral Health and Justice Leadership Academy and the National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Child, Youth and Family Mental Health).
  • Field Impact–Our work continues to make an impact in the field. Whether it is helping a community better identify needs in the criminal justice service system, being the catalyst for 3,818 approvals on initial SSI/SSDI applications through the SOAR program throughout the 2014 reporting period, or speaking out for juvenile justice reform, we continue to be champions of change for the populations we are dedicated to serving.
  • Redesigned Look–One of our most noticeable changes is our new logo and website. It had been some time since our last website update, and we felt that a refresh on our graphic identity would better reflect our evolving work. We’re developing fresh, modern products and resources to turn some heads and increase our visibility.
  • Community Service–Throughout the year, staff have donated $1,306, 228 hours, 422 items, and 12 meals to local organizations in our community through PRA’s giving campaigns. Our Month of Giving was an incredible success, and we have continued our involvement with Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless through our monthly made-to-order breakfasts. We are so proud of our staff’s volunteer involvement this year (and every year)—our commitment to the community truly makes PRA a special place to work.
  • Staff Wellness–To enhance staff wellness, we installed standing desks for employees and greatly expanded our office social events! This year we held the PRA Olympics, went on a boat cruise, and had a bowling outing – building strong relationships and enhancing inter-division collaboration.

Although we had many things to celebrate this year, we experienced a great loss in 2015 – the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Beth Fox Carpenter. For 22 years, Beth was our Meeting and Logistics Coordinator, ensuring that our meetings were a success and that all staff travel was smooth and comfortable. Her love and pride for her work was evident in everything she did, from negotiating hotel contacts (all of which were perfectly organized in her large binders–a Beth trademark), to warmly introducing herself to every single meeting attendee and hotel staff person she encountered. She was an incredible colleague, friend, and mother. We miss her every day.

Looking Forward

The New Year is just a few days past, and we are excited for what’s on the horizon for 2016! Here’s what we’re looking forward to:

  • Academy Model Evolution–The SMVF TA Center will continue to develop and evolve the Academy model by designing a new model — Policy Academy Phase III: Interagency Leadership –to reestablish governors’ buy-in to the partnership with SAMHSA and its SMVF TA Center.
  • Partnership Development–We have many partnerships that we will be building and highlighting in the coming year to enhance our work and expand our reach. One such example is the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, which is partnering with the National League of Cities to deliver the Adolescent Mental Health Training Curriculum for School Resource Officers to two cities involved with a juvenile justice reform project.
  • Technological Enhancements–After a year of online course enhancements, the SOAR TA Center will be turning its attention to its outcome-tracking program to enhance usability and reporting.
  • Population Focus Expansion–Across all of our projects, we are expanding our offerings to include population-specific information, including rural communities and American Indians and Alaska Natives tribes. We don’t believe in one-size fits all resources and will continue to tailor our products to the needs of the communities we serve in the coming year.
  • Wellness Development–We made some changes to our wellness package to reflect the evolving needs of our staff this past year, but 2016 will be a year of wellness! We are establishing a Well Staff Committee to expand our office wellness activities and initiatives and have added a new student loan repayment benefit to help staff who have achieved their higher education goals.

We know that 2016 will be another year of change and expansion, and we are excited to celebrate our success with you. Interested in learning more? View our 2015 Year in Review slide deck for more details!

Word of the Year

The views expressed by the blog post author are their own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Policy Research Associates, Inc.

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