mPremium content.
registered users Learn more

Download Now [ PDF 326.60 KB]

Align and connect data for decision-making

- horizontally (across systems) and vertically (from individual and neighborhood through community and state)
August 31, 2011

It’s time to share. After all, a new pile of statistics will just give everyone information overload. To use this tremendous resource to its full advantage, you need a way to connect data sources and exchange information among stakeholders.


There are two ways to make these connections. The first is horizontally: sharing data across systems, such as education, juvenile justice, health, etc. The second is vertically: sharing data from the individual level to the program level, and up to the city/county level and the state level.

Both of these directions provide important information for decision makers – be it a policymaker who needs to know about the impact of certain policies beyond her specific system, or an afterschool provider who can better tailor his programming based on a student’s performance in school.

Here are resources that address common questions:

How can we get started on aligning and sharing data?

First, we've put together a webinar featuring highlights from the National League of Cities on various ways organizations can share data and a presentation by Omaha leaders who are in the midst of implementing a comprehensive approach to data-sharing. Watch a snippet of the webinar here or the full presentation here

A great resource on this topic is the report, Using Data in Multi-Agency Collaborations, by PPV and ChildTrends (a Ready by 21 Technical Partner). The report looks at a range of community wide initiatives to evaluate and manage collaborative endeavors, and provides a step-by-step roadmap for leaders who want to do the same. The report shares the ups and downs of using data across multi-agency environment and provides recommendations for making the most of electronic data systems.

To get a fuller picture of how data are shared and disseminated in your community, use the Community Data Inventory Worksheet and Example. This tool can help you assess how well your community is collecting, warehousing and disseminating data about youth outcomes; community, school and family supports; and leader efforts. The example shows how one community has used this worksheet to inform its plans for action.

nFocus (a Ready by 21 Technical Partner) provides solutions to some of these tricky data questions. Need to look at youth participation across a range of settings? Curious about program effectiveness over time? Want to link data from schools, afterschool programs and funding organizations? The nFocus brochure shows how this organization can help.

What places have done this well?

Precision Engineering: This Youth Today column by Forum for Youth Investment CEO Karen Pittman stresses the importance of having a full picture of data on children and youth. See the last paragraph on the first page for an example of ways that communities can link data from an individual level to a programmatic level to a city level.

Florida is designing and implementing data sharing between state agencies, and equipping providers with a tool that helps them better serve children, youth and families. This website and a related presentation tell how: Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet Information Sharing System.

As in many other states, New York’s juvenile justice system is run by several agencies that each collect and report its own data. Until recently, this data had never been compiled or distributed to offer a comprehensive understanding of the system. Developing and Sharing Juvenile Justice Data in New York State describes an effort to empower state agencies to report data back to counties in a systematic way that can improve local planning.


Return to Better Data