Becoming a Data & Learning Champion

Posted on 02-06-2019

What does it truly mean to be a “data and learning champion”? How can we more effectively support our organizations’ ability to use evidence and data to amplify impact and make a bigger difference? How do we get better at listening to our clients/beneficiaries and adjusting our services based on their feedback?

These are just a few of the questions that participants of the inaugural cohort of the Data Leaders Academy wrestled with during last year’s 9-month training program.  And it is what prompted Mission Capital and Academy participants to develop and refine a set of principles that provides direction to nonprofit professionals who have a passion for using data to inform decision making and improve client outcomes.

The Guiding Principles for Data & Learning Champions provides key recommendations and best practices for how individual nonprofit leaders can more effectively advocate for the collection and use of program-level data. We know there is a lot to think about and do when it comes to developing and supporting internal evaluation systems and ensuring that data is regularly used for ongoing learning and improvement.  While responsibility for this work should be spread across the organization, data and learning champions can play an important role in asking the right type of questions to drive this work forward, and teaching others how to ask critical questions as well.

Questions related to: 

  • Program design, implementation and outcomes: Have we clearly defined our organization’s target population?  What does the research literature say about our program model? Is the program being implemented as designed?   
  • Data collection: Are we collecting data that we don’t use? Are we clear about what data will be collected and when? How confident are we in the accuracy of our data collected? 
  • Cultural competence and social justice: Have we selected or created data collection tools that are culturally appropriate and vetted to reduce bias in language? Do our clients understand their rights related to the collection and use of their data?  
  • Constituent voice:  How do ensure that our clients’ voices and feedback are collected and regularly incorporated into our work?   
  • Culture of learning:  Is there staff buy-in at all levels of the organization? How can we build trust and reduce fear that staff might be experiencing related to data and evaluation work?  

Interested in learning more about the critical questions to ask in your organization, and additional tools and ideas? Click here for the full set of guiding principles. And consider applying for the 2019 Data Leaders Academy. You’ll join like-minded peers who are also working to support their organizations’ data efforts and become more confident learning champions.

The deadline to apply is February 14. Click here for all the details.