This case study is intended for community leaders, superintendents, and other stakeholders who are considering or have begun creating a shared measurement system for collective impact.
The United Way of the Quad Cities Area sought to create a shared data system to support an effort to raise the high school graduation rate across eight school districts in two states.
By engaging in a respectful and detail-oriented process with community, school, and academic partners, the United Way laid the foundation to make their implementation of the Community Solutions Data Warehouse a success.
“We started small, and the progress was slow — always too slow. But working steadily, building trust, and truly listening to our partners’ concerns, we soon found that we had created a system with data-analysis capabilities far beyond what we’d originally set out to do.”
As part of the growing movement to take a “collective impact” approach to improving the lives of young people, the Quad Cities region in Illinois and Iowa has managed to make progress on one of the most important – and arguably most difficult – elements of the framework: creating a shared measurement system. This case study provides an in-depth, narrative look at how they did it.
Often, the challenges to creating shared data systems are thought to be primarily technical. However, as can be seen in the experience of the Quad Cities, it is the relational and strategic work done by community leaders on the ground that lays the foundation for the future success – or failure – of any technological solutions to data-sharing.
We have organized our description of the work done by the Quad Cities partners into five “phases:” convening the partners, defining shared metrics, creating a data-sharing plan, identifying and implementing a data-sharing platform, and analyzing and reporting the data. While these phases were, in reality, overlapping and iterative, they represent a general progression of work that communities considering building shared measurement systems may wish to use as a guide. Recognizing, however, that each community’s experience is unique, we conclude the case study not with prescriptive “best practices,” but rather with guiding questions for readers to discuss with their own community partners.