Using Data for Collective Impact Step Five: Change Behavior and Share Responsibility

Using Data for Collective Impact Step Five: Change Behavior and Share Responsibility

The fifth step to using data for collective impact is committing to action to change behavior. These resources will help you move your partners to action.

We’ve launched our Data and Collective Impact series to help leaders better use data to achieve a shared result. The series outlines the five steps to using data for collective impact we’ve seen in our work. This post digs deeper on the fifth: Change Behavior and Share Responsibility. In this post, you’ll find stories to illustrate lessons learned on using data, as well as free resources to help you implement these lessons learned in your own work.

We’ve reached the fifth and final step on our journey learning to use data for collective impact. This step—changing behavior and sharing responsibility—is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where you start using data to improve you work. You need to make sure everyone in your collective impact initiative is actually changing behavior based on what the data have told you. If, after all of your discussions about data, everyone goes back to business as usual, you won’t be on a better path to achieving your shared result. Ultimately, you want to see your partners owning their own data and shifting their work without your initiative holding them accountable.

Here’s what you need to ensure people change their behavior:

  • Dedicated staff
  • An action plan
  • Programmatic staff buy-in and support
  • Evaluation capacity

Dedicated Staff

A clear theme throughout this entire series is the need for dedicated staff at each step of the data-driven feedback cycle. The collection and use of data doesn’t happen on its own. And if you’ve been involved in any collaborative work, you’re no stranger to the follow-up it takes to keep the trains running.

To successfully use data for collective impact, you must ensure that your partners follow through on their commitments to change. Whether they’ve committed to change how they are working or who is doing the work, the process requires continuous follow-up and relationship management. It’s not a small task. Managing both people and data can take a lot of time – but we know it can have transformational outcomes. For this reason, collective impact initiatives must, at some point, hire a Data Manager to manage the use of its data. You can learn more about Data Managers in our previous post about “finding data”.

An Action Plan

Collective impact initiatives often fall prey to one of the most frustrating parts of working in teams: people don’t do what they say they will do. You may have had the experience of having a meeting to discuss grand plans, but no one follows through on their commitments.

An easy way to hold partners accountable to their action commitments is through the use of an “action plan.” There are many ways to create an action plan—Gantt charts are a popular resource—and the process for creating your plan is similar whether you are doing it for a project specific to an organization or one that needs coordination with partners.

The essential components of an action plan should be:

  • The task;
  • Who is responsible for the task; and
  • A timeline for completing a task.

As a leader of a collective impact initiative, you can create an action plan after a meeting of your partners and circulate it to make sure everyone agrees on the commitments. Our Prepare Learning Circle sites have all completed action plans and you can use the example from All Hands Raised as a template.

Programmatic Staff Buy-In and Support

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the need to get leadership buy-in for your work. But this step requires the buy-in of all levels of the staff of your partnering organizations. Without getting everyone on board, you can’t integrate the use of data for improvement at all levels of your programmatic work. There will always be one “problem” group or one organization that doesn’t pull its own in terms of follow through in changing behavior. The story of the Menomonie Falls school district illustrates what is possible when everyone involved in a collective impact initiative uses data—even school children.

Our partners at Chelsea Thrives, a member of the Working Cities Challenge, have seen how this culture shift can have real impact on the lives of the people they serve to reduce poverty and improve mobility. A team of their service providers meets regularly to assess risk factors of different families. If the partners agree, based on a variety of factors, that a family has a high level of need, they will prioritize certain services to meet those needs and coordinate amongst themselves to deliver those services.

For more examples on how to make these cultural shifts, read the Urban Institute report, “Starting Small and Thinking Long-Term.”

Evaluation Capacity

Finally, as you move to changing behavior, there’s one more thing you must measure! It’s important to understand if the changes you are making as a result of your new, data-driven insights are actually having an impact on your shared result.

Both formal and informal evaluation methods come in handy at this stage. If you don’t know how your collective impact work is actually changing the lives of the people you serve, you’re at risk of doing more harm than good. At Living Cities we build in time and capacity to evaluate all of our programs, especially the collective impact initiatives we support. With our Integration Initiative, we conducted an extensive evaluation which highlighted a number of recommendations to improve the program. One of the major ones was to create a planning year to help set the stage for collective impact, something the Working Cities Challenge adopted as well.

How to best evaluate collective impact could be another blog series on it’s own. In fact, our friends at FSG have an entire section of their work devoted to the topic.

Thanks for joining me on this journey! The exploration is far from over and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on what we’re continuing to learn about how to best use data for collective impact.

Resources to Help You Implement Lessons Learned

  • Sample action plan: This sample action plan from All Hands Raised can be adapted to help your initiative set clear expectations for how partners will contribute to achieving your collective goals.
  • Menomonee Falls School District case study: This case study shows what is possible when everyone in a collective impact initiative–even students–are committed to using data for performance.
  • Starting Small and Thinking Long-Term”: A report from the Urban Institute about how to guide and lead organizational culture changes for increased performance management.
  • Collective impact evaluation resources: FSG has several resources on how to evaluate collective impact initiatives, including white papers, webinars, and case studies.
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