We’ve launched our Data and Collective Impact series to help leaders better use data to achieve a shared result. The series outlines the five steps to using data for collective impact we’ve seen in our work. The first step was Agree on the Data, the second was Find the Data and this post digs deeper on the third: Present the Data. In this and subsequent posts, you’ll find stories to illustrate lessons learned on using data, as well as free resources to help you implement these lessons learned in your own work. Sign-up for updates on Data and Collective Impact to make sure you don’t miss any part of the series.
If you’re following the five steps it takes to use data to achieve collective impact, you’ve already learned about how to facilitate agreement on needed data (Step 1) and how to find that data (Step 2). Now that you have the data you need, we’ll walk through Step 3: how to present data to your partners in an actionable way.
The “presentation” part of using data may seem simple, but often gets overlooked. Most people cannot consume raw data, nor do they have the time or capacity to do so. It’s up to you, as a collective impact leader, to make your data more digestible. As you’ll see, this process is oftentimes more art than science.
To effectively present data to your collective impact partners, you need:
- Analytical skills
- A little bit of pizazz
The Network for Economic Opportunity, our New Orleans partner in the Integration Initiative, is managing several projects with the goal of increasing employment rates of African-American men. They’re accessing and using data for each project, and some projects have more accessible data than others. (See Step 2 to learn more about accessing data for projects.) Instead of providing raw spreadsheets of data to their partners, the Network spends time analyzing and consolidating these data into more easily digestible graphs and charts.
Making data presentable in this way usually requires some moderate level of analysis. It doesn’t have to be too fancy, but a base understanding of statistical processes can help synthesize your data into a more presentable form. Usually the Data Manager, discussed in the last post fulfills these analytical functions. If you’ve decided to invest more in technology, some software platforms have built in analytical functions. The Network for Economic Opportunity has several individuals across City Hall fulfilling data management responsibilities in various ways–some spend time securing data from partners, and some spend time “massaging” data to make it more presentable.
Data should be used to encourage partners to make changes to their work to achieve better outcomes. Do not conflate the process of statistical analysis with the process of assigning meaning to the data you collect. These are two discrete steps, and the latter is crucial to do in collaboration with your partners. Oftentimes, backbone leaders go to their partners with data in hand and an assumption about what that data means. But if you are telling them what to do rather than having them come to the decisions on their own, it’s much less likely that they’ll change their behavior. I’ll go into the process of discussing data to agree on action items in the next post.
Presenting data is much more of an art than a science. Communities of Opportunity, the Seattle/King County member of the Integration Initiative, has a lot of data on its work to reduce health disparities. They have found that presenting data in ways that connect two or more abstract concepts together can take partners past observing data to action. For example, maps are visually compelling way to connect inequities with people and places. Folks quickly relate to the data when they see how their neighborhoods rank on several indicators. (For more on this, check out this blog post on “social math.”)
Turning numbers and raw data into a visualization can help partners connect the dots in compelling, actionable ways. Nadine Chan, the Assistant Chief for Assessment, Policy Development, and Evaluation in Seattle and King County, was working with data related to poverty and employment. She used excel charts and graphs to quantify disparities, but when she later converted the data into a simple infographic using the free resource Piktochart, partners spent more time looking at it and asked more questions about the data, showing that they connected with the data in new ways. There was a renewed urgency around working on strategies to improve employment. This shows not only the need for creative presentation, but also the value in presenting data repeatedly in different ways to get the information to stick with people.
The infographic was created by Nadine Chan to present her data in a visually compelling way.
The StriveTogether network has benefited from a partnership with Tableau, a data visualization software company. The partnership has allowed collective impact initiatives to develop compelling visual stories with their data in ways they couldn’t before. For example, the Road Map Project, also in Seattle, used the software to turn their annual report into an interactive tool called the “Annual Indicator Dashboard.” The Communications Manager at the backbone for the Road Map Project, Kristin Johnson-Waggoner, called the Dashboard a “breakthrough” and said they designed it to be “[s]omething that could be used to help influence decisions and allow people to really understand student outcomes.”
Of course, you don’t need to use anything as fancy as data visualization software. A well-designed PowerPoint presentation can go a long way in helping people understand what your data are saying. Many collective impact initiatives build up to using software like Tableau as resources and staffing increases, but you can start with free tools like Piktochart, mentioned above, or the data visualization resources at DataBasic. And remember how Excel was an easy tool for accessing data - you can work right from your spreadsheet to develop graphs and charts that make presenting the data easy and appealing.
The way you present data can also frame the discussion you have about data. Organizing “Data Walks,” where you place graphs and charts on walls, are a great way to encourage discussion and help people absorb data in new ways. Living Cities and our partners at StriveTogether used a Data Walk as a way to encourage a discussion about continuous improvement and equity among the Prepare Learning Circle. You can learn more about Data Walks in this great resource from the Urban Institute, and we’ll talk more about how to discuss data with your collective impact team in the next post.
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Resources to Help You Implement Lessons Learned
- DataBasic This free online tool gives you three different data visualization options: a word cloud generator, a spreadsheet analyzer, and a text comparison tool.
- Piktochart This free online tool helps you create quick, simple infographics
- Tableau Public This is a free version of the Tableau data visualization software.
- The Goodman Center is a consulting firm that helps organizations tell their stories better. Its website has a trove of resources on how to use data to tell stories.
- “Data Walks: An Innovative Way to Share Data with Communities” This Urban Institute report outlines best practices for Data Walks.