As a Child Care Resource & Referral Agency (CCR&R), you are in the important (and messy) business of getting, using, and reporting data of all kinds. Data is critical to helping CCR&Rs serve providers and families with the most up-to-date information. Capturing this data over time also helps us understand trends in child care so we can target limited funding and services for the greatest impact.
But we all know there are many challenges with managing data. So how do we make sure everyone has the tools to be able to contribute to high-quality data? A little investment in developing your organization’s data literacy and creating an intentional data culture can go a long way. Try the strategies below and comment or email us if there are other steps you’ve taken that have helped you.
Data Management for CCR&Rs Checklist
- Map your Systems - List all the systems and tools you use for data. Find common data points that make it easier to link data between systems. The fewer places you collect and house data, the easier it is to manage, so eliminate as much duplication as possible.
- Create a Data Dictionary - Define all the data points you collect. Try to align it to state data to make reporting easier and try not to change it much (so you can report trends over time). Include a review of the Data Dictionary in your yearly strategic planning.
- Create a Data Dashboard - It doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a simple spreadsheet or even marker on a whiteboard! Pick 5-10 important data points (e.g., # of licensed providers, amount of training provided, # of referrals, funding) and display it somewhere publicly. Update your dash regularly and look for trends. Reflect your hard work, inspire staff to keep their data clean, and empower data-informed decision-making.
- Have a Data Party (or…Meeting) - Include as many employees as you can. Share out the Data Dictionary and discuss whether there are other data points you should be collecting. Brainstorm ways to streamline your data collection and reporting.
- Align and Share Data - Meet with other CCR&Rs, nonprofits, researchers, and government agencies to find out how they collect data. Work with them to share aligned data to gain even deeper insights into your community. A Data Dictionary will come in handy during these conversations. To help you prepare for these sometimes tricky conversations, ACF has great support resources as does the National Neighborhood Indicators Project. This Peer Learning Group opportunity from the State Capacity Building Center might be a good way to start the conversation (applications due September 28th)
- Provide Initial and Ongoing Data Training - Train employees on both basic data principles and the specific tools you use.
Free User-Friendly Data Tools
Data management as a practice is changing significantly as technology advances. This means new data applications are making it easier than ever for anyone to be a data guru. Here’s a list of some of my favorite free user-friendly tools that collect, store, analyze, and visualize data. Share yours in the comments!
- Typeform (survey)
- Survey Monkey (survey)
- Airtable (store, collaborate, and visualize data)
- Google Sheets + Google Forms (you can link them!)
- Infogram (amazing for visualization)
- Tableau Public (advanced visualization, note that data is public, but you can apply for free private access or purchase)
Share data strategies you have used in the comments! We can learn from each other.