Wesley Community Center
Wesley Community Center is less than a mile from downtown Houston, but it anchors a neighborhood where 44% of the households live below the poverty line.
WCC’s programs and services reflect the needs of this community. Some of their vital services include child care, senior services, financial services, and case management, among many others.
WCC wanted to use data to do a better job of telling their story and communicating their impact. So they engaged January Advisors in a series of projects designed to transform the organization.
This included three projects completed over eighteen months: developing a plan for the data, hosting training sessions for staff, and building a performance dashboard.
Data strategy: taking stock of what’s already there
We interviewed twelve stakeholders to understand the data they have and how they use it. The resulting data inventory helped executives understand what data is available down to the field, what reports use it, what systems they live in, and who manages the process. This is a critical jumping off point for strategic planning.
Through these stakeholder conversations, we were also able to learn more about the challenges they face when managing data. There were a variety of procedural and technical challenges, but many of them could be solved through staff training.
Data training: turning everyone into a data person
Using those challenges as a starting point, we developed a customized data training curriculum specifically for WCC staff. Known as the Data Ambassadors program, we convened staff across the organization for a weekly training program.
Data Ambassadors helps create a “data culture” within the organization. It brings together people who otherwise might not collaborate, and it encourages them to use data as a common reference point.
For WCC, this was very fruitful. By the end of the twelve week program, they documented 39 procedures, set up data training for new hires, and began to incorporate data into their strategic planning.
The Data Ambassadors cohort continues to meet regularly to document procedures and discuss data matters. They continue to use these practices to measure and improve their programs.
Data visualization: an interactive dashboard shows the results
Naturally, with new data procedures in place, WCC was curious to see how they were performing over time. We worked with their team to bring the data together into one place, with different data visualizations for each program pulled from different data systems. This visibility allowed executives and board members to track and better understand the near-real-time health and impact of its services across all of Wesley’s programs.
In order to be useful, we knew the dashboard had to reflect the most up to date data. It wouldn’t be enough to just capture a point in time. So we gathered data from different systems such as Apricot, Link2Feed, and Salesforce, meeting with program staff along to way to verify what we received. Then we developed a data pipeline to pull the data from the original system and prepare it for use in the dashboard.
Now WCC can see key metrics, such as the number of unique clients and households served, or the average number of services per household. They have standard definitions for each of these terms. The numbers have meaning to everyone in the organization, from the front line to the board.