Pathways to Excellence

The Community Action Network's Premier Organizational Capacity Building Initiative

What Is Pathways to Excellence?
Pathways to Excellence is the Partnership’s organizational capacity building initiative.  Pathways uses 35 Standards of Excellence based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and specifically adapted for the Community Action Network to define the very best practices for agencies. Over a twelve month period, agencies participating in Pathways attend a two-day training session, conduct a comprehensive self-study process and report, participate in monthly support webinars and/or conference calls, and receive a detailed peer review report from a team of Pathways-trained experts with at least five years of management experience.  
Pathways typically offers up to two “open” trainings a year for all interested agencies and “state-based” trainings scheduled by request of a state association and/or CSBG Office.  The next open enrollment Pathways training is scheduled for May 24th and 25th in New Orleans, Louisiana.

What are the benefits of Pathways enrollment and how does the process work?

The Pathway to Excellence begins with a two-day training session covering the Standards and how to apply the Organizational Self-Study as a rigorous diagnostic tool that identifies strengths to build on and critical areas to improve. Agencies typically bring teams of four to five senior leadership staff, typically including the Executive Director and Board Chair, who in turn lead the Self-Study process back home, providing an excellent opportunity to build the “leadership bench” of your organization.  You then have nine months to complete the Self-Study, supported by monthly webinars and/or conference calls with the Partnership staff and consultants. Finally, a panel of expert peer reviewers trained in the Pathways process with at least five years of management experience provides your agency with a comprehensive feedback report within three months that lays out a detailed improvement process and clear next steps for moving down the Pathway to Excellence.

The Standards for Excellence set out a list of critical benchmarks of excellence in seven categories:

1.    Organizational Leadership
2.    Strategic Planning and Direction
3.    Customer, Constituent, and Partner Focus
4.    Measurement, Analysis, and Performance Management
5.    Human Resource Focus
6.    Organizational Process Management
7.    Organizational Results

The Standards and Self-Study process are powerful tools that can help distinguish your agency’s grant applications, prepare for state monitoring visits, and support other critical activities such as strategic planning and needs assessments.  Pathways offers a sliding fee scale based on your agency’s size for which you receive:

  • A comprehensive two-day training on the Standards and Organizational Self-Study process;
  • Extensive training materials to support the nine-month Self-Study process;
  • Monthly webinars and/or conference calls coordinated by Partnership staff and consultants to support the Self-Study; and
  • A detailed feedback report with recommendations on how to improve across all seven categories that comprise the Standards of Excellence.

Pathways trainings are typically held twice a year and announced on the Partnership’s webpage and through our regular communications to the Community Action Network.

What is the State-Based Pathways Initiative?

The Partnership is also interested in working with state CAA Associations and CSBG administrators to offer the Pathways initiative and associated training within a state. If you and other CAAs in your state are interested in having Pathways offered closer to home as a voluntary capacity-building strategy, we would be pleased to talk to your state CAA Association and CSBG Office about hosting this option. Presentations and workshops about the Pathways initiative can also be provided to state or regional CAA events.  Going through a State-Based Pathways process has the added benefit of creating a state cohort of agencies that can support each other through the Self-Study and leverage events such as annual conferences to disseminate promising practices and other innovations.

What Does Pathways Cost?

The fee for the open enrollment Pathways training uses a sliding scale based on agency budget detailed below.  Agencies also cover the cost of travel to and lodging at the training.

Agency-Wide Annual Funding  Agency-Wide Annual Funding
 $0-$500,000  $750
 $501,000-$1,000,000  $900
 $1,000,001-$3,000,000  $1050
 $3,000,001-$6,000,000  $1,200
 $6,000,001-$9,000,000  $1,350
 $9,000,001-$12,000,000  $1,500
 $12,000,001  $1,800

The State-Based Pathways fee is $3,600 for the sponsoring state association or CSBG Office in addition to travel, lodging, and per-diem for the trainer and any expenses for the meeting space, and a flat fee of $1,500 per participating agency.  Both Pathways options typically aim to enroll between five to seven agencies per training to ensure participants receive maximum support from the Partnership staff and consultants.You can access the application form for both trainings here.

Self-Study Reviewer Opportunity

Become qualified as an Award/Pathways to Excellence peer-expert reviewer in Community Action's initiative to recognize and promote excellence and continuous improvement among CAAs nationwide. This training will qualify you as an eligible reviewer of agency self-studies completed under the Award for Excellence in Community Action and the Pathways to Excellence initiatives. The next training session is scheduled for August 29th-30th at the Partnership’s Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.  The cost of the training is $350, the application to become a peer reviewer is available through the link on the left side of this page, and the registration form for the training at our Annual Convention is available here . 

Direct inquiries to:
Jarle Crocker, Director of Training and Technical Training, 202-449-9774, or email


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