Getting Great Data Week: Lessons learned on collecting great data by Betsy Block

Hi, I’m Betsy Block, Principal & Founder of B3 Consults, and I’m excited to kick of this week talking about ensuring you’ve got GREAT DATA.  I define “great data” as accurate, timely and most of all useful. As evaluators we want to focus a lot on using data, but we often have to help mission-driven organizations do a better job of collecting it in the first place, and solving the technical mysteries in how to do it.  The “best” data system alone won’t magically procure great data.  I hope this week’s blogs give you insight and tools to help you collect great data.

In my time as a “pre-valuator” and coach, I have watched mission-driven organizations struggle to evaluate their work – or even want to pursue evaluation – because their data systems just fail them. These failures are usually preventable, if only these organizations had a better resource on setting up their data to start.

Representatives of amazing mission-driven organizations, software vendors and foundations spoke to my colleagues and me over the last couple of years about their success (and failures) in data system implementations.  And regardless of their organizational perspective, these folks all seem to land on similar advice in making sure the data system actually helps the organization capture great data.

Hot Tips:

  1. You need a map to get where you are going. Those logic models and theories of change? They can help you to make sure that you have clear directions and priorities for the data you collect.
  2. Get out of the silos. We all want to load up one person with magically making it happen – but as evaluators, we are skilled at engaging multiple perspectives, and this is a great time to use that skill.
  3. You can get it fast, you can get high quality, or you can get it cheap… but not all three. Take your time, focus on quality, and you can control costs.
  4. Be patient and compassionate. Some of the changes will push against longstanding ways of doing business, and people will have unanticipated emotions about change.
  5. Start with WHY. It seems obvious, but many organizations pursue getting a new data system without articulating what is going to get better when they do.  Think of it as beginning with the ending: know what success will look like!

Rad Resources:

  • Making Wise Decisions offers user-friendly, step-by-guidance to organizations that are considering adopting a new data management system – including free-to-use templates. No need to recreate the wheel!
  • Salesforce Getting Ready Playbook by Sam Dorman Consulting. Though Salesforce focused, this playbook includes lots of thoughts applicable to all organizations around what to consider before selecting a system.
  • K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide by W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Practical and clear guidance on how to create a logic model, always a great go-to resource. 

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Getting Great Data Week. All posts this week are contributed by evaluators who came together to write about the theme of getting data that is accurate, timely and most of all useful. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Getting Great Data Week: Lessons learned on collecting great data by Betsy Block”

  1. Hi Betsy,
    Thanks a lot for the information on getting GREAT DATA. The step by step tip is quite clear and simple to understand. As a researcher this information you shared would help me navigate through my research.
    Thanks
    Ade

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