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Better Data Toolkit

August 31, 2011

America loves statistics and seems to have one about everything: from the number of people per square mile (87) to how much the average dog owner spends on the vet each year ($248) to the odds of catching a foul in the home ballpark of the Philadelphia Phillies (one in 1,233). So where are the data you need about kids in your community?


Probably all over the place, in different formats, with lots of gaps. State and local leaders routinely lament that while they have plenty of numbers about children and youth, they don’t have a complete or coherent picture.

Armed with a comprehensive set of data about young people, leaders can make better decisions about services and supports. They can see what approaches are working. They can guide their community or state in setting priorities about what resources to provide, to whom, and where.

This toolkit helps you create a process for collecting and using data that:

  • Cuts across systems and levels, from programs and organizations to networks and communities
  • Measures leadership actions and their impact on services and supports for youth
  • Covers all parts of youths’ lives, across all ages
  • Answers crucial questions about programs, such as demographics, performance and impact
  • Is up-to-date and ongoing

To accomplish that, the Forum recommends following these standards for compiling and using better data:

  • Collect complete data about youth outcomes, community supports and leadership actions to inform collective efforts and demonstrate the link to improved outcomes.
  • Align and connect data for decision making horizontally (across systems) and vertically (from individual and neighborhood through community and state).
  • Use the best information about what works to make strategies more effective.

To learn more about better data in action, check out these resources:

“Better Data 101” Webinar Recording: This webinar offers an introduction to the Better Data standards and offers several examples. Broadcast on May 31, 2011, the session was led by Larry Pasti, field services director, and Kiley Bednar, program manager, at the Forum for Youth Investment.

Austin, Texas: Coordinating Data about Services to Drive Change: See how city leaders are using a state-of-the-art online tool to map and track youth programming, improve services and make them more accessible to families in need.


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