Data and Evaluation: Sifting Through the Static and the Sound (ECCP Mini-Grant Highlight, Part 1 of 2)

  • February 13, 2017
  • Data

by Tim Walter, Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council

Big Data, Data Analytics, Data Driven Analysis – do these “buzz-words” sound familiar?  We have entered the age of “Data” (…and whatever else you’d like to attach to the beginning or end of the word…), and there is no going back.  Data can be overwhelming – hard to determine what is important and what is just plain confusing.  Data is not all bad, in fact it can be what helps drive and guide program design, implementation, and evaluation efforts.

Program Evaluation for non-profit agencies and organizations is possibly more important now than ever before.  Every year non-profit agencies and organizations prepare to write and apply for new and old grants alike; however, what makes your non-profit work so special?  Can you show the good work your organization does (and whether it is producing effective results)?

You might be asking: Why is data and evaluation of my program important and what does it have to do with my work?

“Program Evaluation” and data analysis will continue to be the standard by which organizations are judged.  For many years, science-driven professions (Engineering, Accounting, Medicine) have been required to quantify and show accountability when presenting results.  Only more recently, the social sciences (Public Health and Social Work) have been asked to quantify and show accountability with the work they do.  It is now, more than ever, necessary for organizations to “Show Their Good Work” as grant funders want to see “accountability” when awarding dollars to organizations.

The ECCP Mini-Grant supporting the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council kicked off an inter-agency re-assessment of how we tracked our program outcomes in past years, and we began to ask,  what “truly matters” for tracking, as we move into 2017-2018 and beyond.  Along the way, we have developed Logic Model templates (modeled after Results Based Accountability theory) to identify program outcome goals and database design needs.  Our ultimate goal is to create a data tracking system capable of producing images and visual reports that will show our good work.  There will be a variety of other uses for this information, but the process of designing a robust evaluation methodology was far more manageable than previously thought.

Program Evaluation may seem daunting – but my hope is to provide a few more opportunities (and tips) that will provide others easy to use ideas/templates, design tips, and an ability to bring to life the good work being done.

Read more in part 2 of this blog post, coming later this month!

Project: Earlier Is Easier

Organization: Earlier is Easier

Location of Messaging: Denver-Metro Area

 

Earlier Is Easier is a collaborative of 28 Denver-area organizations working collectively to promote the value of interacting with children from birth to age three. Our messaging encourages simple activities related to talking, reading, singing, playing, laughing and writing that parents and caregivers can do each day to foster healthy brain development while also building strong emotional bonds.

We have two websites, that were just redesigned: www.EarlierIsEasier.org and www.Espanol-EIE.org. Both sites include age-based tips and activities, information about the science of building healthy brains, local community resources and more. We also have printed “tip cards” that are distributed on child-friendly plastic rings via our partner organizations, community programs and at a variety of events.

EIE’s websites and tip cards underwent content and language revisions in 2016 to incorporate messaging from the shared message bank. We connected our existing learning messaging in many places to activities and concepts that also foster social emotional health and building positive relationships. Some examples include: promoting serve and return communication; strengthening relationships through shared play and laughter, and encouraging activities that involve meaningful interactions between parent/caregiver and child.

 

Early Childhood Partners Develop Shared Data Agenda to Collectively Move Needle for Children and Families

  • February 1, 2017
  • Data

The Data Agenda was launched at the ECCP full partner meeting in January.

Data-driven decision making is a key element to ensuring collaborative efforts can be accountable to reaching shared results. The Early Childhood Colorado Partnership has worked since 2009 to continually use population-level data to inform efforts and move the needle to achieve results for children and families in Colorado. The Data Action Team, made up of partners from multiple organizations and agencies, discusses and collects data annually using a Results Based Accountability (RBA) approach, and spent the better part of 2016 updating the Data Agenda to reflect the Early Childhood Colorado Framework, updated in 2015.

The Data Agenda includes “systems” indicators at the performance level to better understand collective impact upon outcomes. Systems Performance Indicators provide shared accountability for and reflection of how the early childhood system is performing,rather than reflect whole populations (i.e. children and families in Colorado). A Data Advocacy Agenda is in development so partners can continuously work together to advocate for improved data collection.

As state and local partners identify ways to align efforts to move the needle for children and families, the Data Agenda provides an opportunity for shared accountability. The Data Action Team will work throughout 2017 to capture baseline data and share the story behind the data broadly.

Want to join this work? Email earlychildhood@civiccanopy.org to learn more.