Results

Several patterns emerged after our engagement. Organizations that are trying to build data infrastructure at both state and local levels were adept at picking from the suite of technical assistance options to meet their specific needs. The organizations which most focused on their own data management and governance structures benefited from a variety of intensive technical assistance and peer learning sessions. Some organizations preferred a blended approach. Each organization must now allocate scarce resources for their region’s skill building.

For those organizations that worked hard to generate community and business buy-in to elevate the importance of state and local data systems for long-term accountability and learning processes, early exposure to state-level data infrastructure experts was most valuable. Other organizations focused on building foundational data management and governance skills as building blocks for future data-related work. Several organizations reported that participation in an intensive data management governance course, as well as regular communication with a facilitator at CREC, helped to advance these goals.

Additionally, several organizations found that internal and external capacity must be built simultaneously. An organization’s internal work to redefine an agenda may require a state policy change, and vice versa. For example, organizations that gained awareness of their state and local data ecosystem strengthened capacity to advance data-driven programming. By understanding current data gaps and potential solutions, participants gained an understanding of their organization’s challenges in a broader context.

Lastly, developing collective metric and evaluation tools was essential for a few organizations. One-on-one coaching with CREC allowed these organizations to think through key audiences and refine which data to use. This helped build internal data capacity. Overall, fostering data efficiencies helped to make data-related capabilities sustainable.

CREC found that, at the end of two years, most organizations were making progress toward their intended outcomes, though many still needed to gain buy-in from staff and partners. They were able to access and analyze data for regular reporting processes, though not necessarily to regularly engage specific stakeholder groups. Some participating organizations had improved data-driven decision-making by improving their initial line of questioning, yet further progress is needed, especially at the regional level.   Most participating organizations experienced challenges accessing secure wage data systems to understand the employment outcomes of the youth they aim to serve. While organizations may be well positioned to work with data in terms of their core capabilities, oftentimes they do not have the time or capacity to devote to this work. These insights, among others, point to the underlying issue that data work is time and resource intensive. Moving forward, it is important to recognize that results from participating organizations, including K12 and university systems, are ultimately contributing to a feedback system that could hold them, as well as other direct service providers, accountable for further actions. Their continued leadership advancing transparent and inclusive capacity building processes in their states and regions will be critical to their success.