Sustaining a NORC Program

No Standing Still

The Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center NORC program is in good financial shape. It has buy-in from the senior residents, strong connections to Roosevelt Hospital, its core health partner, and broad participation by elected officials and community partners. The NORC program also has diversified funding and a growing budget, with core services covered for the next six years, and a strategy for stabilizing its mental health services.

None of that means it can stay still. Populations change, needs evolve, and funders, partners, and employees turn over. At Lincoln Square, staff comes together periodically at planning meetings to tackle broad questions such as:

  • What has been successful over the past few years?
  • What do we want to continue, or expand, and deepen?
  • What else do we want to take on in the years ahead?
  • What services are missing? What should we add to the mix?

Social workers who know the senior residents well give voice to their concerns at the planning meetings. Results are then presented at the Advisory Council’s June wrap-up meeting, which is always attended by at least ten seniors. At that annual event, everyone has a chance to talk about where the NORC program is headed and to make some decisions about agenda items for the upcoming year.

Countless other less-structured opportunities also allow seniors to be heard as plans evolve. “Seniors will come into my office and tell me what is right and what is wrong,” said executive director Stephanie Pinder, explaining the open-door policy of the entire staff. “We get their input all the time both in formal and informal settings.”

That helps ensure not only that the program is sustained, but that it is sustained in the interest of those for whom it exists.

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