Building a Dashboard for Rural Leaders: Lutheran Services in America’s Rural Aging Action Network

Carly Fiorina said: “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” Lutheran Services in America is working to do exactly that! 

Lutheran Services in America partnered with Transform Consulting Group (TCG) to create a data dashboard to help make program data collected by leaders within their national collaborative more accessible for their teams. Lutheran Services in America wanted an easy-to-read dashboard to help leaders within their national collaborative, Rural Aging Action Network (RAAN), better understand their program’s data in order to make real-time program improvements and learn from one another within the collaborative. 

The first step in our data support for Lutheran Services in America was to build a data dashboard using the program data that they collect from the RAAN leaders to help evaluate and assess their goal of addressing gaps in care for underserved older adults in rural communities. Because RAAN leaders and programs are spread out across the country,  the dashboard is designed to give everyone access to the data metrics and visualizations they need at any time to inform program improvements and learn from each other’s programs. 

In this blog, we will walk you through our engagement with Lutheran Services in America to build an interactive dashboard and what our next steps are to continue supporting their data needs. 

Interested in building a dashboard for your organization? Make sure to read our blog on the seven steps we use to guide organizations through this process. 

Determine the purpose and intended use.

The first thing we did when we started to work with Lutheran Services in America was to understand the purpose and intended use of the data being collected for RAAN. The purpose and use of the dashboard was to provide RAAN leaders with access to data in a more user-friendly way to make programmatic improvements and learn about the strengths across the RAAN collaborative. 

Define the research questions.

Lutheran Services in America already had the research questions they wanted to answer, and the RAAN collaborative leaders reported data related to these questions. We helped organize the data that was being reported to help understand which data point answers which key research question.

Once we had that understanding, we developed clear metrics or key indicators (KPIs) to inform the work of RAAN. A key component of having clear metrics is that everyone within the organization and related audiences understands the importance of these metrics, including how they relate to their role and team. Learn how to make clear metrics in three easy steps by checking out this blog. 

Gather and organize the data.

The next step is to gather the data to answer the research questions and KPIs. Before the dashboard, RAAN’s data was stored in multiple spreadsheets, making it difficult for the entire collaborative to see data as an aggregate in real time. In addition, RAAN leaders were also challenged to interpret the data consistently across all of their programs. The new interactive dashboard allows the entire collaborative to look at the same data with quarterly updates. 

As we built the dashboard, we identified improvements to the data collection process. TCG and Lutheran Services in America modified the RAAN collaborative’s reporting template to collect their data. When reviewing and organizing the data, we learned that data entry issues can be common with data entry. We revised the reporting template to help avoid these mistakes and to ensure the data is clean and accurate. 

TCG plans to provide definitions and a guide to help the RAAN collaborative enter data even more accurately in the future. Data quality is an ongoing process! 

Once we gathered the data, our next step was to analyze and visualize the data. TCG worked with Lutheran Services in America to create a dashboard for the RAAN collaborative to use internally to see their progress and identify gaps in care for older adults. The dashboard also allows the RAAN leaders to see how others are doing to facilitate deeper collaboration and learning from each other. 

The dashboard has four main sections organized by the research questions we identified at the beginning of our work. On each page, key data points are highlighted to help answer the research question. The different organizations within the RAAN collaborative can filter all the data, making it easy to assess the different programs. The filter has helped the RAAN leaders identify each RAAN’s area of strength leading to conversations on possible solutions and program improvements within their own organizations. 

Use the data 

Lastly, we want to use the data we have worked so hard to collect to make informed decisions, celebrate success, and share with others.

Now that we have analyzed the data, Lutheran Services in America can use the data to make informed decisions and improve programming to reach more underserved older adults and mobilize additional community partners in rural communities. We are beginning to build staff capacity to use the dashboard. We want to make sure everyone who accesses the data understands it and knows how to use the dashboard to inform their work.

Our TCG team recently met with the RAAN leaders to present the dashboard and train them on using it. We had the opportunity to be with the full RAAN collaborative, all in Medora, North Dakota together. 

In the next couple of months, we will be working closely with Lutheran Services in America to provide training to the RAAN Collaborative to build their data literacy or “data muscle.” Our partnership is still in motion, and we are excited to support the Lutheran Services in America RAAN Collaborative to continue using their data to improve its program and services and overall impact. 

Check out this blog to learn how to tell a story using your data! At Transform Consulting Group, we are passionate about the many causes our clients represent. We believe that data is a secret weapon that can unlock insight to bring about transformation. We know your work is essential. So, what’s next for you? We want to help! Let’s work together to turn your data into action.