Analytics: It's More Than the Numbers

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NCCD Blog

Analytics: It's More Than the Numbers

Erin Wicke Dankert, Researcher

As part of the NCCD research department, I am thrilled to be part of the analytics services team. We partner with social service agencies in child welfare, adult protection, juvenile justice, adult corrections, and education. Each new analysis presents a new challenge, and it is fun and interesting to use my knowledge of data systems to help these agencies address their needs and achieve their goals.

But analytics services aren’t just about data mining and crunching the numbers; building relationships with the agencies that we work with is extremely important as well. Our team is committed to providing the best technical assistance possible. We regularly communicate with our clients, by email, phone, web meeting, and in person. These interactions allow us to better understand how our work influences everyday practice, which in turn allows us to be better analysts. These interactions also give us the chance to provide agencies with guidance to help them to achieve their goals by using data.

We work with agencies throughout the country and the world. Our team recognizes the importance of being able to provide in-person technical assistance, so we try to have an onsite visit with our clients at least once a year. The knowledge shared and gained during these visits is incredibly valuable.

Our recent onsite visits have varied widely in content. For example, during one site visit we taught the clients about relational databases and how to use and work with them. Sometimes we sit down with a leadership team to discuss the best way to evaluate a new practice initiative. We have also worked with multiple sites to help them build their own capacity to create data reports using information management systems.

We love being able to help agencies become more efficient so that they can focus their resources on more critical issues. For example, while onsite we recently met a child welfare services unit manager who was sifting through case files by hand to complete a report for a service provider in the community. Our team helped the agency to build an automated report to quickly return a list of families who should have been referred to the service provider, saving the unit manager time (and headaches!).

Recently, we started an analytics data group to encourage cross-system learning and communication between child welfare agencies that we work with. Researchers, analysts, and leaders from these child welfare agencies participate in the group, which provides an opportunity to freely discuss and communicate ideas about how to use data to inform and improve practice. Members of the group can use their experience to help others problem-solve or share successful methods for achieving goals. We hope to increase group membership over time to create a sense of community among social service agencies who use data to drive decisions.

Of course, our team is passionate about working with data, but we also pride ourselves on having great relationships with our clients. Partnering with these agencies allows us to exceed the possibilities of working alone. Working together helps us to achieve the best outcomes: to increase safety and well-being for children, families, and communities.

Submitted by Visitor on February 6, 2015 - 3:57am.

I applaud NCCD for its willingness to engage in this area and encourage consideration of greater use of open data and visualization as well, to help educate the broader community of the challenges we face together. I'd also encourage engagement of other system stakeholders (e.g., law enforcement, courts, etc.), and cross-sector partners as well, such as education, etc., so that comprehensive data that influences or impacts child welfare can be leveraged. Great work NCCD! Jim Burch, Police Foundation, Washington, DC

Submitted by Visitor on March 4, 2015 - 12:08pm.

Thank you very much for your comment! We are always excited to see agencies working together, sharing information, and using data to help improve practice and increase impact. We hope that using data will help these agencies to have the evidence and support needed to elicit meaningful systems change. -Erin Wicke Dankert, NCCD

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