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7 Reflections on Do Good Data 2015

May 5, 2015 All Articles, Nonprofits and Communities Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Do Good Data 2015 in Chicago. During the conference, I tweeted some of my impressions and thoughts. Here on our blog, I’d like to share some of my reflections that relate to the topic of data with integrity

  1. Building a data-oriented culture is not budget-dependent.
    • There was general agreement that integrating data into your organization’s operations is more a matter of mindset and commitment than the size of your budget. Ned Breslin told us that Water for People, which has a nearly $20M annual operating budget, might be expected to have a big evaluation department. In reality, they have done away with their line item for monitoring and evaluation – not because it’s not important to them, but because, as the CEO, Ned believes “monitoring should be part of everyone’s job description.” Everyone from the car drivers to executive leadership is involved in gathering and interpreting data to improve their organization’s operation and impact.
  2. There are lots of good mnemonics to guide your reach for good data.
    • A great one from Dean Karlan, Professor of Economics at Yale University, is CART:
      • Credible: Do the findings accurately answer the question?
      • Actionable: Do you have a plan for all possible reasonable outcomes from the data?
      • Responsible: Will the data generate enough guidance to warrant the expense?
      • Transferable: Can the findings be applied to other organizations?
  1. There are also useful mnemonics for identifying bad data.
    • Bethany Lang, of NeonCRM, identifies bad data as inconsistent, inaccurate, and incomplete. She had many other, more nitty-gritty recommendations about data cleaning in CRMs, and I look forward to seeing her slides once they’re shared!
  2. The “why” of data is just as important as the “what.”
    • The Cara Program, which fights homelessness and poverty in Chicago, starts each morning with “Motivations,” where the whole team gets together and shares answers to questions like, “What is bringing you joy today?” They find this activity sets the tone for the day and helps them push through the more mundane activities like data entry that are fundamental to getting good data but hard to get excited about.
  3. The most important step to getting data with integrity is to start.
    • The big risk with conferences is that everyone gets riled up, goes home for the weekend, then goes back to work on Monday and does the same thing they’ve always done. Beth Kanter led a nice wrap-up activity in which she had people use to write commitments to themselves about what they were going to do differently. Nice accountability tip!
  4. Even when you start, sometimes you flop.
    • After a lunchtime conversation with some folks from the Center for Economic Progress in which we speculated about the demographic makeup of conference attendees, I tried to throw together a quick demographic survey and Tweet it around. Of the roughly 600 people who attended the conference, only 26 people responded to the survey – a terrible response rate, but an excellent lesson in designing your data collection efforts thoughtfully, and the risks of the “If you build it, they will come” mentality.
  1. Finally, here are links to some useful tools and resources shared at the conference:

Check out The Do Good Data Eventifier. You’ll get a recap of all the all tweets, photos, and videos from the event!

Be sure to check out the Ideas nFocus blog next week when we’ll feature another guest contributor to our Data with Integrity series.

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