Sustainability can be defined in different ways, but essentially it is building the momentum needed to maintain an initiative while continuing to develop funding strategies, relationships, practices, procedures, and services that will last. Sustainability planning should begin early in the assessment and implementation process, include key partners, and address the following questions:
- What do you wish to sustain? The entire intervention or just some key components?
- Why do you wish to sustain it (what are the benefits and what evidence is there that it should be sustained)?
- What is required to sustain it (changes required, cost, potential funding sources, etc.)?
- Whose help will you need and how can you secure their support?
- If there are components that will not be sustained, how will you manage the transition?
- How can effective dissemination and communication help you achieve your sustainment goals?
Sustained level of services to children, youth, and families requires strategic program planning and the ability to adapt to changes over time. Use the resources listed in “Spotlight On” and below to learn more about sustainability planning for child welfare and other social service organizations.
The Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, and Sustainment (EPIS) Framework
The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC) for Child Welfare (2017)
A framework adopted by CEBC that is based on existing research on implementation. EPIS was developed specifically for use in child welfare and similar service sectors.
How Youth Services Programs Stay Relevant & Sustainable (PDF - 100 KB)
MANY Center for Research and Innovation
Identifies key considerations and strategies for agencies to include as they develop and sustain both their programs and the services they have identified as critical to their communities.
Resource Guide for Building Sustainable Programs (PDF - 4,157 KB)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs (2019)
Offers practical tips and activities to help organizations develop a long-term sustainability plan. There are eight sections for factors that help form sustainability plans along with a sustainability assessment tool and additional resources on sustainability.
A Road Map to Quality Collective Impact Programming With Fiscal Independence
Annie E. Casey Foundation & Pennsylvania State University (2019)
Presents a case study on a coalition of organizations that have formed a collective impact program in Rhode Island and how they have achieved success, sustainability, and fiscal independence.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau (2019)
Provides resources for project sustainability, including ones on the topic of community mobilization and sustainability, cost analysis, and sustainability planning.
Sustaining Evidence-Based Practices (PDF - 548 KB)
Justice Research and Statistics Association (2016)
Describes sustainability and how it relates to evidence-based program implementation. The briefing paper presents a number of factors and strategies for achieving program sustainment.
Sustaining the Work or Initiative
Work Group for Community Health and Development, University of Kansas
Presents practical information and examples of ways to sustain a community initiative over time.