The team at REACH Riverside works to transform the Wilmington, DE Riverside Neighborhood into a healthy, vibrant place to live and thrive, knew they were collecting a lot of important data points surrounding their work with the local community, but were struggling with how to understand, and then present, this information in a way that was actionable, presentable, and digestible with their different audiences.
A request for standardized data assessments from a national network organization became the impetus for REACH to focus on how best to evaluate its data collections and how to tell the story of its impact and community members. “It boiled down to that idea that we wanted to be data-driven, not just data-justified, because behind the numbers and outcomes, are real people, real lives, and real stories” – said CCIO, Dave Ford. “Data is just data, but when we can convert our data into more tangible information, it not only helps us to make better decisions from the community we serve, but it helps our team, our supporters, and our funders know the impact they are having and to truly see themselves as part of a solution.”
REACH Riverside contracted with the team at Tech Impact’s Data Innovation Lab to start the work on the first of two engagements to help them assess and plan for a data culture overhaul. They first wanted to focus on creating a meaningful dashboard that could pull their key data points into a concise and easy to view way. The Data Lab team, including a few of the Lab’s fellows from their 2023 cohort, worked with Ford and members of the senior leadership team to identify all their key performance indicators (KPIs) that would bring the most value. The process not only helped REACH and the Data team build a dashboard that pulled in real-time data from their program outputs, but it also had a secondary outcome – it forced them to reflect on their current internal data process and data culture. It’s great to have dashboards with constantly updated information, but it’s only ever as good as the quality of data it is pulling in.
That’s when the second engagement became clear – REACH needed support assessing their internal processes and capacity around collection, storage, and management of their data. If they wanted to up their game around data use, they needed confidence that they had the right resources in place to support the work. It started with a full inventory of their databases and systems throughout the whole organization, and given the scope and scale of the work REACH does - how many contracts, partners, and organizations they work with - it was an incredible and tedious challenge. But with Tech Impact’s help, Ford and the REACH team were able to touch every department and every data entry point to map out their whole ecosystem.
“When we are exploring any type of new relationship with a partner, we’re looking to engage with people that bring a heightened level of thought to the table. We don’t want to just live in a place of status quo, where ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and that’s just okay. Good enough, isn't.” said Ford. “We want to bring on partners that know more, have seen more, and have experienced more than we have in this space. Tech Impact and the Data Lab were the right team to help us dig deeper while providing the support and expertise we needed to reach our goal”
What’s next? REACH is setting its sight on using these results to create better efficiencies in its data collection and data use, which will in turn help its programs to be more effective, its community members to be better supported, and its volunteers and supporters feel more empowered.
“I want people who are a part of this organization to look at these reports and see not just metrics, but themselves, as individuals, and as a team. Data can seem intimidating, but all those facts and figures and charts come down to people, and that’s what we can celebrate”.