What We Do

Program Spotlight

SPPG + Essman Research has extensive knowledge of the field of before school, after school, and summer programming. Since 2002, SPPG + Essman Research has served as staff to the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, a network of individuals and organizations committed to expanding high-quality, accessible afterschool and summer programming to all communities across the state. Through this work, SPPG + Essman Research has developed extensive knowledge of both policy and practice in the field of afterschool and summer programming. 


SPPG + Essman Research has worked with and provided support to Iowa’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers network since 2002. Over this time period, SPPG + Essman Research has provided training, technical assistance, and support to the Iowa Department of Education. These activities have developed capacity within SPPG and among our team to best serve Iowa’s 21st Century network and ensure that SPPG + Essman Research provides the most responsive service to grantees that makes sense for them locally. 


As staff to the Iowa Afterschool Alliance, SPPG + Essman Research is a central technical assistance and professional development provider in the field of afterschool and summer programming. Customers of its services include school districts, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and many others operating before school, after school, and summer programs. In 2007, the IAA undertook a significant research effort to identify best practice in the field, creating Iowa’s Quality Standards for Afterschool and Summer Programming. Utilizing the most up-to-date research in the field, the Iowa Afterschool Alliance identified ten standards of quality programming:


  • Positive Human Relationships

  • Appropriate Indoor and Outdoor Environments

  • Effective Programming

  • Strong Partnerships

  • Effective Administration

  • Effective Staffing and Professional Development

  • Youth Development Principles and Practices

  • Outcome Measurement

  • Fiscal Management

  • Advocacy


The One Economy initiative started with the 2017 State of Black Polk County report which highlighted the experiences of Black community members through their stories and data. The recently released 2020 Blueprint for Action report provides an update to the data and concrete steps to address disparities in Polk County. SPPG + Essman Research was commissioned to create these reports and contributed the following services:

  • Facilitated small-group discussions with over 110 members of the Black community

  • Analyzed data about employment, education, health, housing, justice, and financial security outcomes for Black residents of Polk County

  • Coordinated working groups to develop solutions to address the racial disparities that were identified through data and community feedback

  • Created content and designed reports, executive summaries, presentations, and more to share the information with the public


The One Economy work includes rich data and substantive plans for the community have received substantial media attention and appreciation from leaders in Polk County. Several local nonprofits and government agencies have used the data provided in these reports to influence their own work and successfully apply for a variety of grant funds for related projects. 


Keep Iowa Beautiful is a statewide non-profit organization that aims to improve the economic health and cultural vitality of Iowa cities and towns through community improvement and environmental programming.  KIB assists communities with funding, implementing, and executing initiatives that enhance the beauty and sustainability of their local areas.


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