Paul Collier on creating great data and evaluation habits – Part 1


Hello AEA365!  I’m Paul Collier. Over the last two years I worked as the Data and Evaluation Manager at the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center (SFCAPC), a mid-size nonprofit focused on ending child abuse in San Francisco. At SFCAPC, I worked with all our 50+ staff members to help them use our data to serve clients better.

Rad Resource: Early in my time at SFCAPC, I read a book that changed how I approach my work:

I believe great people to be those who know how they got to where they are, and what they need to do to go where they’re going. They go to work on their lives, not just in their lives… They compare what they’ve done with what they intend to do. And when there’s disparity between the two, they don’t wait very long to make up the difference. – Michael E Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

Reading Gerber’s book convinced me on the importance of systems and habits to help people succeed at their jobs. SFCAPC had a database that held client information – Efforts to Outcomes – but had few habits to improve that system and use that data to serve our clients better. So, I set out to create habits for how we do our “data” work.

Rad Resources: I read through books, blogs, and web sites, and talked to mentors and friends to get a sense for what other organizations do. I found many resources that shaped my approach at SFCAPC – some of the best are:

  • The books, whitepapers, and newsletter from the Leap of Reason Institute – The free e-books on this site by Mario Moreno and David Hunter, and the institute’s recent whitepaper, The Performance Imperative, are the resources I recommend most often to others.
  • Sheri Cheney Jones’ book Impact and Excellence – Jones’ book contains many useful strategies she uses in her consulting practice to help clients generating insights from their data when resources are scarce.
  • The Root Cause Blog – Root Cause is another consulting firm that supports nonprofits in creating effective data and evaluation habits; they share some of their tricks on their blog.
  • The Data Analysts for Social Good professional association – Members get access to 25+ webinars ranging on topics from justifying the return on investment of data analysis to introductory analytical techniques using Excel, R, and other platforms.

While these resources were useful, I still struggled to find examples of data and evaluation habits. Tomorrow, I’ll share six specific habits we developed at SFCAPC to manage our “data” function and provide consistent value to our staff.

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