It has become commonplace to use data to inform public health and community-change work, often through the use of a Community Health Assessment. Using other forms of data to drive your work forward on a daily basis is an appealing, yet often daunting idea—sometimes it can feel like stopping to collect or track data slows progress and hinders forward movement in “on the ground” work. However, there are other ways to incorporate data into everyday organizational processes and decision-making.
There are two major forces that can simplify data-driven work: (1) a streamlined data strategy, and (2) integration of technology.
At IP3, we recently partnered with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) Midwest Early Recovery Fund (ERF) to develop a data strategy that refines and improves data collection, sourcing, tracking, and reporting to meet organizational goals. The ERF serves a 10-state region in the midwest U.S. and provides communities affected by low-attention disasters valuable recovery resources through timely, consistent, and replicable grant-making. The Fund is used to address issues two weeks to eighteen months after natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, landslides, and wildfires.
The ERF was already using pre-disaster secondary data, as well as post-disaster primary data they were collecting on-the-ground, to make decisions about where funding was needed and how and where to prioritize grant-making. Our team conducted a thorough review of CDP ERF processes and use of data, as well as stakeholder interviews. Our goal was to gain a full understanding of precisely what data they were using to make decisions and where those decision points were within the context of the workflow. This research and engagement allowed us to develop a detailed, customized data strategy to simplify ERF processes, meet organizational assessment needs, and be easily adoptable.
Taking the time to work with the ERF and learn about their process and stakeholders—and to develop a customized data strategy—positioned us well to recommend technology integration that would fit seamlessly into their workflow to automate processes and scale impact. We were able to outline the specific requirements ERF needed at each point in their process, what technology product or feature would meet that need, and put together a comprehensive recommendation. Importantly, we also identified areas where “intuitive” decision-making could not be replaced, and determined ways to incorporate qualitative observations and stories into reports and outputs to support a person-centric lens. Through our work together, ERF was able to incorporate a mix of IP3 | Assess and ESRI’s StoryMap tool. Our IP3 team worked with ERF staff to configure and customize the tools where needed, supported them through the onboarding process, and developed customized training and technical assistance materials to ensure an easy transition.
Today, ERF staff saves time previously spent sourcing secondary data from myriad places, collecting primary data on the ground, and integrating data into spreadsheets, all of which is now automated. Using data to inform their work is a breeze, and they are better-equipped to share data externally with community stakeholders to inform collaborative disaster response and recovery.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to develop a data strategy that meets your needs and/or integrate technology into your workflow, get in touch!