Creating healthy, sustainable communities is difficult work -- community wellbeing is complex (check out our Seven Vital Conditions for Wellbeing framework), and promoting wellbeing demands collaborative, cross-sector work and collective impact. There has been a rise in recent years in network approaches to community health. As a result, those working in the field often face the challenge of how to measure aggregated impact of work conducted by multiple community partners, across sectors, addressing various health needs.
How do you collect and track data across partners to accurately assess progress, show trends over time, and demonstrate where potential program improvements are needed?
There is no silver bullet to aggregated assessment, but through our work with community collaboratives, we’ve found there are a few important things to consider when implementing an effective measurement system, that can make a big difference:
1. Develop and agree upon a measurement framework upfront.Before the work even begins (or as early on as possible), create a set of shared measures and goals you want to track. If each community partner defines success differently, any data collected likely won’t be easy to aggregate to see combined impact. Creating a simple list of indicators each partner will track, and how the indicators work together to address health needs, can be a game changer.
2. Build a flexible framework that allows partners to track unique measures that their work is likely to address. Although it’s important to agree upon a framework upfront, that doesn’t mean there can’t be differences in what each partner tracks. There should be some consistent measurement variables across partners, but not all variables will be measured by everyone. For example, a community collaborative working to improve the juvenile justice system might have one partner tracking student touch-points with school resource officers, while another might track youth sentencing data.
3. Make it easy for partners to contribute their data through your measurement tool/process. If it’s not easy for partners to input their data, chances are they won’t do it. Consistent, timely data upload should be part of the agreed-upon measurement system, and it should be intuitive and simple for partners to do.
4. Provide a return on reporting.
Too many funders require grantees to input lots of data into a “black box” system without value to actual grantees themselves. Create something that is useful to everyone -- it should be easy to use (clean user interface), and data reports should be digestible and visible to all partners to see how the work is going, and how they can adjust programming to improve outcomes. Incorporating timely results reporting across a network of partners not only serves as motivation to upload data consistently, it also provides shareable content and results for local stakeholder engagement.
Want to talk about our simple, effective approach to impact measurement? Get in touch.