An Interview with
Patty Ochoa Program Director
“Knowing that what I do impacts my community makes this job a great challenge and a great responsibility.”
“[Point K makes it] easier to explain to new staff, the board and our partners what we do, and it has saved us an enormous amount of time communicating new ideas.”
“Any time someone from a different organization mentions that there is lack of communication in regards to planning, I always give them your website address”
"Since its beginnings, Pacoima Beautiful has evolved from a volunteer beautification committee to an environmental justice and environmental health, community-based, non-profit organization ... Pacoima Beautiful is dedicated to the creation of a healthy, environmentally safe, prosperous and sustainable community."
From Pacoima Beautiful's website, www.pacoimabeautiful.org.
InnoNet: Can you begin by telling me a little bit about your organization?
Patty Ochoa: Pacoima Beautiful was founded in 1996 by five mothers from the Pacoima community who wanted to improve and beautify it. Seeing that there was a need to show the beauty that Pacoima has, these five mothers started organizing themselves to do clean-ups. Once the clean-ups were initiated and more and more people began to recognize them as the leaders that they are, local parent centers and schools began to take part in doing clean-ups and tree planting showcasing the beauty of Pacoima (hence the name "Pacoima Beautiful").
However, their interest in improving the community did not stop at clean-ups but contained into health issues. In 2000, Pacoima Beautiful partnered with CSUN faculty (Carl Maida, Tim Dagodag and John Schillinger) and students to conduct a survey in 21 neighborhoods to determine the extent of the knowledge of lead and lead poisoning. Of the 250 residents surveyed, few knew anything about lead. Knowing this, Pacoima Beautiful began to look at health issues affecting the community—for example, looking at the industry and freeways surrounding the community and the health impacts these have. From that point on, the shift from beautification to environmental justice took place.
InnoNet: How and why did you become involved in your service area?
Patty Ochoa: I grew up and have lived in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have people around me who always encouraged me to improve and challenge myself and taught me the importance of "coming back to your community." After graduating college, I began to teach at the local high school. Seeing that there was a need to involve youth in more outside activities, I became interested in learning how to develop programs. I learned about Pacoima Beautiful through a friend who was the youth coordinator at the time. I then applied for the institute teacher position (a summer month-long program that teaches about their community and environmental justice). Since then, I left teaching (for the moment) and have been working at Pacoima Beautiful ever since.
InnoNet: What is your favorite part of your job?
Patty Ochoa: My favorite thing about my job is being involved in my community. Knowing that what I do impacts my community makes this job a great challenge and a great responsibility.
InnoNet: How did you first learn about our training services?
Patty Ochoa: In 2004, we received funding from the Hewlett Foundation. Through their funding we attended a workshop on logic models and were introduced to Innovation Network.
InnoNet: Have you applied the Point K tools to your daily work? If so, how?
Patty Ochoa: Each program has its own logic model chart and is used to continue with the planning of the work. The logic models are revised from time to time amongst each program and shared with other program staff. Each staff member as well as partners has access to the database allowing for "transparency" of the work. This is important in order to keep the communication lines open; specially when there are hectic days and periods.
InnoNet: Please describe how your organization has changed since you have started using these tools and resources.
Patty Ochoa: Since we have begun to use Point K, program planning and communication have improved. Before, everyone took notes and saved them in their own computer. However, no one had access to the information in anyone else's computer. We had no stationary place or idea of how to share information. On many occasions, we had to revisit past plans and modify them, either because someone added something to the plan or a new approach was developed. It was hard to identify the "final" plan. When we began to use Point K, it was really hard for the program staff to think in a formatted way. However, after many attempts at it, the organization has seen the value of having a Logic Model. It is easier to explain to new staff, the board and our partners what we do and it has saved us an enormous amount of time communicating new ideas. Also, it allows for everyone to have access to the information.
InnoNet: Have you used the Point K tools for collaboration with others?
Patty Ochoa: We use Point K for program staff to communicate with each other regarding different projects each one is undergoing and how they can collaborate. We also use Point K to share with our organizational board and with some partners. At the moment, we are taking about creating Logic Models for different projects within the programs. This way, we can give access to all the different partners that work with us so that they can use Point K as a point of reference to the work they are undertaking and so they can be on the same point when things change. It will be easier for them to go to a site to see new updates, then for us to email them all to let them know date changes and so forth.
InnoNet: How do you plan to use Point K in the future?
Patty Ochoa: Since being introduced to Point K, we have made it mandatory for every program to develop and update their Logic Models. They are reviewed periodically to ensure they follow the strategic plan and that there is future thinking taking place. This way, management can support any program who is having trouble with their planning before it becomes an issue. Also, when someone gets hired, they are introduced to the Logic Model (basically the work of the program). We plan to use Point K for other purposes too. Since seeing how having one tool for the three different programs has created uniformity and further developed communication, we are now in the process of creating different tools in order for the organization to function better. The Evaluation Plan Builder is next.
InnoNet: Would you recommend our tools and resources to empower others in the non-profit community?
Patty Ochoa: I have. Any time someone from a different organization mentions that there is lack of communication in regards to planning, I always give them your website address and let them know how Point K has helped us in structuring and formatting our planning.
InnoNet: Thank you for being a Point K Featured User.
Patty Ochoa: Thank you for coming up with an easy to access tool that is free. We really do appreciate it.