Tag Archives: assess

Putting Data into Context

At Transform Consulting Group, we are proud data nerds. Through our evaluation services, we help clients collect, analyze, and share meaningful data. In this blog post, we explained who to share your data with and why. In today’s post, we will go one step further by providing tips on how to present your data in a meaningful way. More specifically, we’ll discuss how to put your data in context and why it is important to do so.

Impact Image- blogWhen presenting your data, you shouldn’t share it in isolation. For example, an after school tutoring program might find that 75% of their students pass their required standardized tests. If the program shared this data point by itself, their audience might have a lot of unanswered questions, like:

  • How does this pass rate compare to other students who don’t receive tutoring services?
  • How does this rate compare to local and national data?
  • What standardized tests is the statistic referring to?

 

To avoid this problem and present their data it a meaningful way, it would be best for the tutoring program to cite outside data sources to provide comparison, credibility, and context. By including this additional information, the program could more fully illustrate their impact and outcomes.

We are currently working with the Center for Leadership Development to develop an evaluation plan. Through this process, we have helped them demonstrate their impact by presenting their data within context. Here are three tips we shared with them that can also help you use outside data sources to put your data into context.

1. Find credible data sources that add meaning to your data.

When citing outside data, it’s important to make sure the data is credible, accurate, and relevant to your organization’s work. When working with clients like CLD, we often provide a resource sheet listing different data sources they can cite for comparison and context. An example of a data source we shared with CLD is the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s College Readiness Dashboard. This was an appropriate choice because it is a reliable interactive data set that can be used to compare the outcomes CLD students experience to other students in their state and county in similar demographic groups. Check out this blog post for a list of our go-to data sources. This list may help you identify which data sources you can cite to move your organization forward.

2. Benchmark similar programs.

In a previous blog post, we explained that you may want to benchmark the practices of organizations similar to yours when making a programmatic change or looking to diversify your funding. Benchmarking can also be helpful when creating an evaluation plan and reporting your data. Looking at the outcomes of similar programs gives you comparable data to assess your program’s efficacy.

When working with CLD, we benchmarked similar programs such as College Bound in St. Louis. Their programming aims to help low-income students get into and graduate from college. Not only were they a similar program for CLD to compare their outcomes to, but they are also a great example of an organization who puts their data into context to make it more meaningful. For example, they compare their data to St. Louis Public School data and low-income students across the nation:

94% of College Bound students have matriculated to college immediately after high school, compared to 66% of St. Louis Public School graduates and only 51% of low-income graduates nationwide.

By presenting this statistic in the context of the students’ school system and other low-income students, College Bound is displaying the impact they are having and the success of their students relative to their peers.

3. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

We always tell clients to make sure they’re not trying to compare apples to oranges. This phrase refers to the comparison of items that aren’t really comparable. An example of this came up in our work with CLD when reporting their alumni’s postsecondary persistence rates. When comparing their persistence data to local and national data, we needed to make sure the outside data set was defining persistence in the same way they were. They define it as persisting from Freshman to Sophomore year of college. Other sources defined persistent students as those who were enrolled at any institution or had attained a degree 3 years after first enrolling. Therefore, these two data points aren’t really talking about the same thing and aren’t comparable. By finding the right data sources to compare your data to, you ensure that the data and context is meaningful.

If you need help presenting your data in a meaningful way and using it to make data-informed decisions, give us a call to see how we can help through this process!

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4 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Volunteer Committee

When was the last time you were asked to join a committee? Did you have a deep sigh of angst or a smile of excitement. Your reaction was probably the former, which is not uncommon. Most professionals I know are involved in one if not multiple volunteer committees and seem either frustrated or lukewarm about the purpose or progress of the committee.volunteer committee blog

Participating in committees is a great opportunity to get diverse voices and perspectives to inform complicated issues and bring forward new solutions. Committee work can also be a great leadership development and community engagement opportunity for staff. When we take the time to be thoughtful about our role and involvement, then we can accelerate the impact of our committee work.

Part of our project management work includes providing staff support for different volunteer committees. These include the Governor-appointed Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee, Healthy Families Indiana Think Tank, and community-based coalitions (read more here).

Many of my team members are also involved in committees as a volunteer. As a result, we sit on both sides of the table. It’s with this broad perspective that we share the following tips for how you can make the most of your committee work!

1. CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS  

You or your organization were hopefully strategically asked to join this committee. Do you have a clear understanding of your purpose for being on the committee? Are you representing a specific perspective (industry type, stakeholder type, subject matter expertise, etc.), and the leaders are wanting you to share your perspective on behalf of this group? If you are not clear, ask the leaders up front when you are joining.

In addition, what are the leaders expecting you to do on this committee? Is this a working committee that is developing a proposal or reworking policies/ programs? How much time and involvement is expected of you on this committee? Are the leaders of the committee expecting you to share information you learn at the committee with others in your circle or industry?

I was recently asked to join the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Steering Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strategic plan and supporting the working committees. When I joined, I was informed of the reason I was being asked to join, the purpose of our work, and the time commitment for the Steering Committee. I understand my role and the purpose of the group.

A well-run committee should have these expectations and obligations clearly articulated from the beginning, so there is no “gotcha” later when they ask you to do something you didn’t know you were supposed to do. By having this clarity, you should have a stronger sense of purpose and meaning for participating on this committee.

2. ASSESS YOUR ROLE

Once you know the purpose of the committee and your expectations for involvement, now it is time to assess your personal role and contribution. What type of “talent” can you contribute to the committee?

Do you bring a unique perspective that no one else on the committee shares? Can you gather information or review information in a way that no one else can contribute?

My colleague, Sara Anderson, was asked to join our local county’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Data Committee. Leaders of the committee became aware of our data expertise and had a need for more assistance. Sara learned more about the committee’s data needs, helped them organize the data into a dashboard (see more here and here about our dashboard work!) to visualize and share with the other committees the impact of their work and made recommendations to improve the data being collected.

Reflect on what ways you can add value to the committee’s work and offer it to the leadership and the group. This will provide more purpose and meaning with the committee and also improve the overall work of the group.

3. PREP AND PLAN

Usually before each committee meeting, the leadership will send out meeting materials (agenda, handouts, etc.) in advance of the committee meeting. If you make the time to review those materials and any other follow-up from the last meeting, you will be able to contribute more in the committee meeting. It will give you a sense of purpose for the meeting and how you can participate/ add to the discussion.

By preparing for the committee in advance, you can also be prepared to ask thoughtful questions or gather other helpful information that could contribute to the discussion. Nothing is worse than showing up to a committee meeting where action is supposed to be taken and feeling like the other members did not do the prep needed to have a meaningful discussion.

4. SHARE YOUR LEARNINGS

Hopefully through your engagement on your committees you are learning new information. Now you are informed and equipped to share this information with your colleagues and industry. Again, you might strategically be asked to share information with your network. Even if you are not asked, odds are that they would still benefit from learning about your work.

For the state advisory groups that we staff and provide backbone support, many committee members find value in participating in the groups because they learn what is happening across the state. Then they are more informed to take that information back to their community and network to help get everyone on the same page and expand the discussion.

Assess the information that you have received and learned through your committee work and think about who in your network could find value in it. Maybe it is simply a quick post on a social media channel, including a blurb in your next e-newsletter or sending out an email. Whatever the communication medium, make sure to pass along what you are learning with relevant parties involved!

Do you have a committee that has stalled and needs some help? Contact us for a free consultation to see if we might be able to help you!

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5 Tips to Implement an Evidence-based Program

When awarding funding, philanthropic funders want to invest in “what works” and is proven effective. Many funders show preference for programs and practices that are evidence-based. Implementing an evidence-based program is a great way for grant seekers to demonstrate that they are also committed to “what works”.

For example, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation recently awarded funding to over 20 schools and school districts as part of their Prevention Matters initiative.  Prevention Matters is a three-year grant initiative aiming to help Marion County schools identify, implement and sustain proven substance use prevention programs.

To apply for this funding, schools selected an evidence-based substance use prevention program that aligned with their needs. In their proposal, schools had to demonstrate that they had a strong plan for implementation and sustainability. Developing such a plan can be a daunting task, but is crucial for successful implementation. We worked with Bishop Chatard and the North Deanery Schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to help them develop their implementation plan and proposal (Which was fully funded by the Fairbanks Foundation! Learn more about our fundraising services here.). Here are 5 tips we used to help them prepare to successfully implement their evidence-based program!

1. Select an Evidence-based ProgramWhat Works Image (1)

First, you need to find a program that aligns with the needs you are trying to address. For example, if you are a school looking to prevent substance use and violence, while also promoting positive youth development, you may choose to implement the Botvin LifeSkills Training curriculum.

Taking the time to research available programs is crucial to ensuring successful implementation and maximum impact. To learn more about how to find an evidence based program, check out this blog!

2. Assess your Organization’s Capacity

Once you have selected an appropriate evidence-based program, it is important to assess your current funding and staffing capacity. You want to assess if your current organizational capacity will allow you to implement the program with fidelity. Fidelity refers to the extent to which you deliver your program as the original program model intended. Evidence-based programs are  proven effective and that effectiveness relates to how the program is implemented. Therefore, fidelity to the model is crucial to successful implementation.

Completing a feasibility study is a great way to assess your capacity and readiness. A well designed feasibility study will help an organization assess 1) if what they are thinking of implementing is possible and 2) how to consider implementing it. Check out this blog to learn more about completing a feasibility study.

The assessment of your capacity may indicate that you need to make some organizational changes. For example, you might need to tweak your program budget to purchase necessary materials and/or hire additional staff. Making these operational and workforce investments will lead to more successful implementation and program outcomes.

3. Create an Implementation Plan

Next, it’s time to flesh out your implementation plan. This plan should include a timeline and should specify staff members’ responsibilities for program related tasks. Many evidence-based programs have a set number of required sessions and guidelines for how frequently they should occur. Make sure that your implementation plan aligns with program requirements.

4. Train and Prepare Staff

Once you create your implementation plan, provide training for staff involved in the implementation. Involved staff should have a clear understanding of the program goals, activities, and their responsibilities throughout implementation. Your implementation plan should also include continued professional development opportunities and training for staff, to ensure continued high quality implementation.

5. Establish Continuous Monitoring Procedures

Once you begin implementing the program, you want to continuously monitor your fidelity to the program model. Many evidence-based programs come with accompanying fidelity checklists. It is important to identify a staff member, or an outside evaluator, who will conduct observations of the program to evaluate the implementation. You can use observations and fidelity checklists to assess if the program’s implementation is consistent with the original program model.

If your organization is looking for support in choosing, implementing or evaluating an evidence-based program, contact us today to learn more about our program development and evaluation services!

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Strategic Planning Process: Step 2

In this past blog we talked about the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning that we follow. A quick recap of the 4 steps are: Collaborate, Assess, Facilitate and Create. A few weeks ago we shared more about Step 1 in that process: “Collaborate”. Today we are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 2 in the process: “Assess”.

Assess Highlighted

 

With many of our clients and partners, we find that they immediately want to jump to Steps 3 and 4 of the process, which is about goal and strategy setting. By skipping over Steps 1 and 2, organizations are missing out on a critical opportunity to get buy in and input from key stakeholders as well as embed a thoughtful review in the planning process.

We divide the assessment phase of the strategic planning process into two parts: Internal and External Assessment.

Internal Assessment

  • Organizational review: The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  This might include summary reports of the organization and programs to determine results accomplished. You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  
  • Stakeholder feedback: We have several blogs that talk about stakeholder feedback here and here. Don’t forget to talk internally within your organization about the strategic plan by reaching out to clients (if appropriate), staff, volunteers, and board of directors.

External Assessment

  • Environmental Scan: The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and sector that the organization operates. It might be helpful to provide a brief update about the latest research, policies and best practices that inform the work of your organization.
  • Community needs assessment: It might be helpful to complete an updated needs assessment of your community or targeted audience to ensure strong alignment with programs and needs. We have some blogs about this here and here.
  • Stakeholder feedback: Just like an internal assessment, there are some key stakeholders to reach out to for feedback and input to inform your planning process. This might include current and past funders, other community partners, and the public.

While completing a new strategic plan for Healthy Families Indiana, we included both an internal and an external assessment. We gathered key data points about the organization to bring to the planning team for review and discussion. We also completed an organizational history timeline exercise to help bring everyone together about the key milestones accomplished over the life of the program in the state. We sought feedback from various stakeholders within the organization, which included staff at different levels (direct service staff, supervisors and program managers) and across the state.

We also sought feedback from external stakeholders by reaching out to community partners who make referrals and have shared goals. These components provided important context to inform the discussion about goals for the future.

Once we gather all of this information, it is important to do some pre- analysis and synthesis of this information before it is shared with the planning team. We do this in a couple of ways for our clients:

  1. Pre-read report – We develop a narrative report that summarizes all of the information collected in the internal and external assessment. We use graphs and tables to make it as user-friendly as possible. It’s helpful to share this report in advance of a planning meeting or retreat, so that the team can review the information before meeting.
  2. Presentation – A presentation can be a simpler way of compiling the information and sharing it with the planning team. Sometimes we create both a narrative report and a presentation that summarizes the information gathered. The slide deck presentation can be helpful to highlight some of the key findings during the assessment phase.
  3. Dashboard – We talk about creating dashboards in this blog. Basically we love dashboards and how helpful they are to display multiple data points in a user-friendly format. We love to create dashboards that summarize internal and external assessment data to share with the planning team. See this one we created for a community strategic plan.

The main purpose of the “Assess” step in the strategic planning process is to gather important information to share with your planning team, so that they are well informed and equipped to develop a plan for the future. We would love to partner with your organization in developing a strategic plan. Contact us for more information!

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