How Data Frameworks Can Help You Better-Understand Conditions and Take Action in Your Community

Updated: May 26

We all know it’s important to use data when trying to assess the state of a community, identify needs, and develop an action plan. But, how do you know which data to examine? And, what’s the best process to go from data to implementation plan? Data frameworks provide a powerful tool to help “connect the (community assessment) dots”: from examining data, to prioritizing areas for investment, to developing an implementation plan.


Frameworks translate data into a solution.

We like to say that frameworks translate data into a solution, which makes sense if you consider what it means to “frame an issue.” Framing is a way of structuring or presenting a problem or an issue; framing involves explaining, describing, and adding context. That’s what frameworks do when applied to data: add helpful context that aids in thinking about how to take action to improve your community.

So what are frameworks, exactly? At the most basic level, frameworks are simply a series of “domains” (you can also think of these as categories), and data indicators that populate those domains. It’s helpful to look at an example framework: The Vital Conditions for Well-Being framework consists of seven domains, each of which is populated by a series of indicators.


Below, you can see that the seven domains in the Vital Conditions for Well-Being framework make up seven conditions that every person needs all the time to be healthy and well.

To continue with this example, we’ve broken out one of the seven domains in the Vital Conditions framework below, and you can see each of the data indicators that populates the Reliable Transportation domain.

Frameworks encourage a holistic view and help you incorporate relevant indicators that you might not otherwise consider.

At IP3, we promote two well-being frameworks, which by nature encourage a holistic view through incorporating data pertaining to various components of community well-being. As with all our frameworks, these were developed in partnership with other leading organizations in the field: IP3 is a core member of the WIN network, which developed the WIN Measures Framework, and we partner with ReThink Health to advance the Vital Conditions for Well-Being framework.


In addition to well-being frameworks, we’ve developed others that promote a holistic approach to a specific issue. The Opioid & Substance Misuse framework is an example of an issue-specific framework for those wanting to address opioid and substance misuse in their community. This framework includes 15 domains, some of which are intuitive to the issue (e.g. burden of substance misuse, history of substance use), and others that are less obvious (e.g. adverse life experiences, impact on urgent services). In this way, the application of the framework prompts users to examine both obvious and less-obvious factors associated with opioid and substance misuse, and in turn, incorporate both traditional and non-traditional approaches to addressing the issue into an implementation plan.


Framework development is important.

At IP3, framework development involves a literature scan to determine factors associated with a specific problem or issue, and we also take into consideration indicators that other experts in the field are measuring (e.g. SAMHSA, CDC, WIN Network). Other factors considered are: feasibility of collecting and/or sourcing data, the granularity of available data, as well as whether data are available broken out by race/ethnicity and from multiple years to show trends over time.


Frameworks make data actionable.

When examining data to inform an implementation plan, long lists of indicators aren’t helpful because they fail to shed light on levers you can actually pull to improve your community. You may know that your community has above-average rates of diabetes, with a disproportionate effect on low-income residents, and that your community’s rate of unemployment is also higher than average, but what exactly does that mean for your implementation plan? IP3 | Assess applies powerful data analysis to compute a composite score for each domain in a framework, allowing users to compare data not traditionally comparable. For example, users can compare their community’s relative score for transportation to its relative score for meaningful work and wealth to guide decision-making around which of the two areas to invest in.


The biggest benefit of using data frameworks is that you can more easily go from insight to action -- from community assessment to community improvement. Frameworks include categories that reflect common community programming and organizational structures, such as transportation, housing, and urgent services, where the work actually happens in communities!

Want to learn more about how you can use data frameworks to better-understand conditions and take action in your community? Get in touch!

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