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How Small Organisations Can Use Data for Big Impact

The Xfactor Collective specialist member Kristi Mansfield shares how a small grassroots organisation is proving you don’t have to be a powerhouse to use data to achieve your goals.

We are told often enough that we live in a data-driven world. Ironically, it’s data that proves this point, but the evidence is all around us. Data is an essential resource in our economy; it informs decision-making at all levels of government and business; it impacts the way we live and work every day.

Knowing this, how can small organisations hope to compete with larger organisations, when it comes to accessing, collating and analysing reams of data in order to better meet their targets or improve their offerings?

And when so many funding and program decisions are based on data, how do smaller organisations find the time and resources to devise a data-led strategy that will help them achieve their visions for change and their goals for funding, partnerships and impact?

Building Data Confidence

Beyond the Bell Great South Coast Ltd is one such organisation that is shining a light on how it can be done.

An ambitious initiative that began in 2012, this small grassroots group is leading a cultural shift in the way communities and service providers work to support young people in the Great South Coast region of Victoria. Evidence and data are at the core of all its decision-making.

Executive officer of Beyond the Bell, Kate Roache, explained to me that, in applying for grants, the small executive team rely on data to identify where the key issues lie and the impact of new programs, such as the organisation’s Stepping Stones to School initiative being rolled out over the next three years.

In February this year, Beyond the Bell updated its data assets to identify changes in community needs since 2012 and to build the evidence for funding applications. The new data-driven insights gave the Beyond the Bell team confidence in its approach and were shared with more than 40 stakeholders, including Victoria’s Department of Education, local schools and early years education providers.

The data was also used in submissions to funders, which has since led to $450,000 in new philanthropic funding.

Roache said Beyond the Bell works with many different regional groups and must demonstrate trends, needs and important interventions to all its partners to ensure it can execute on strategies that will ultimately improve the lives of people in those communities. Easy access to data is the critical first step to achieve this objective.

Being a Data-led Organisation
  1. Culture of curiosity. Questions can come from clients, partners, frontline teams, the board – the science of data will not only help you answer those questions but will uncover astounding clues for your work.
  2. Access is key. Use information that is publically available, as well as data you collect or data that’s locked within your organisation.
  3. Share. Community organisations that share data can accelerate their learning.
  4. Responsible data governance. Apply an ethical lens to how your organisation works with data.
  5. No story without data. Using local knowledge to interpret the data allows communities to tell their own stories.

Is your organisation making the best use of data to help meet your goals? Do you know where to tap into the data you need? 

In my experience with data and analytics, there’s no doubt the prospect of going down this path can be daunting for smaller organisations and NFPs in particular. But, as Beyond the Bell has demonstrated, it is also an empowering step that delivers vital insights, information and results. And, in today’s competitive environment, that is compelling evidence for anyone.

Top Tips on How to Use Data
  • Situational analysis: for understanding your community or context area.
  • Diagnosis: for understanding the problem more deeply and uncovering new insights about the reasons for that problem. 
  • Prediction: for estimating the likely future based on current and historical data. 
  • Impact assessment: for gathering information to continuously improve program or service delivery, as well as measuring change.
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Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

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