We just moved into our lovingly named Gingerbread House.  We knew when we first crossed the threshold that it was the home for us, and after a lot of collaboration, we have finally closed.  Buying our home required help from a number of people and organizations.  In a lot of ways, the process reminds me of successful collective impact. 

gingerbread house
The home buying process takes a lot of collaborative effort!

Collective Impact

Collective Impact requires several things:

1. A common agenda for coordinated change

2. Shared measurements for data and results

3. Mutually reinforcing activities

4. Open and continuous communications

5. A coordinating entity that acts as the backbone of the operation

            When all of these elements are present, collective impact initiatives are able to thrive. Data, while a helpful tool for communication, collaboration, and accountability, can sometimes be left out of the plan for change.    As Forward Wayne County evolves, we will begin to focus more on shared measurement for data and results.  As the backbone for collective impact, we have a responsibility to collect, analyze, interpret, and report data.

Using the Data

Data has many uses:

1. Helps groups collaborate

2. Initiates community development work

3. Creates accountability

4. Communicates goals and progress

Helps Groups Collaborate

            If agencies all have a shared understanding of the goals through numbers, they can help guide each other toward the goal.  It is easy to get bogged down in each individual person’s vision when you are working collectively.  Having the same set of data, with the same measurements, gives a group a common language and clarifies the goal.

            During the home buying experience, we were bombarded with a lot of data.  How was our local housing market performing?  How did that performance affect our options?  Did the options fit in our budget?   When buying our home, this data helped us collaborate with the lender, the realtor, the various sellers and the title company.    

Initiates Community Development Work

            Data can help us more specifically understand the state of our neighborhood and give us a start to our community development work.  When we look around, we can see signs that our neighborhood is strong, such as green space and functioning playgrounds.  We can also look around and see signs that our neighborhood needs some tender love and care, such as abandoned buildings or unmanaged litter in the streets.  Checking in on this data makes community members more motivated to make changes.

Without regular check-ins, we were not always motivated to make progress.

During the home buying process, we also needed regular check-ins to keep us on track.  We would take account of the number of houses we had looked at, the houses we still needed to view, the features of the houses we had seen, and how each option fit in our budget.  When we did not check-in and review the data, we ended up forgetting these details and doing rework.  Without regular check-ins, we were not always motivated to make progress.  

Creates Accountability

            Data can help us stay accountable.  If we are not sure where we stand, how do we know what to work on next?  Neighborhoods can benefit from data to help increase accountability in areas such as safety and cleanliness.  Using data to report the number of street lights in a high-crime area of the neighborhood versus a lower-crime area of the neighborhood can help boost the credibility of a city directed request.

            Understanding our incomes and the prices of homes, taxes, insurance, etc. helped us stay accountable and find the right fit for a new home.  When I tried to drive us in the direction of expensive homes with all the bells and whistles (Hello, 150k home with 4 beds and 2 baths!), the data helped get us back on track. 

Data Tools

There are many different ways to communicate data.  In the monthly newsletter, data updates are provided alongside evidence of progress in our areas of Our People and Our Community.  Along with the newsletter, the Forward Wayne County website is a great place to stop if you would like a more in-depth look at current facts and figures related to Wayne County.  Soon our website will house dashboards with a wealth of updated figures related to county benchmarks.  Dashboards, also known as data dashboards, are information management tools that help users easily see key data related to change progress.

Dashboards are a helpful method to using data more effectively.  Dashboards can provide a quick look at data across a timespan and can offer insight into the data being tracked. Organizations can quickly track progress month-by-month and make fast judgements about the effectiveness of their chosen plan for change. For example, our realtor helped us stay on track by using a dashboard of data that looked at our local options, funding capabilities, and home prices across a set span of time. 

How do you think up-to-date data and the use of dashboards can help Wayne County move forward?  Tell us your thoughts!  Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and use #forwardINwayne when talking about the use of data in your community change plans!

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