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Bringing Data into Balance: From Individual Pathways to Program-level Successes

If anything positive has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that technologically, we have proven that the social sector does in fact have the capability to transition many employee roles to work from home, remain socially and professionally connected, and carry on with many of our organizations’ core business functions. It has also underscored where there are weaknesses and gaps (a.k.a. opportunities) in how we can deliver services and achieve more in these new circumstances. But most of all, this experience has absolutely forced us to look at every aspect of how we conduct business with new eyes.

If someone were to ask you where your organization will be in five years, and how you think technology will play a role in how effectively you will get there—your response today would be much, much different than it would have been even a few short months ago. What has surfaced for countless organizations throughout this whole experience has been the need for a comprehensive, connected social ecosystem. For the health and human services sector, beneficiaries seek support from a vast array of organizations. To address all aspects of an individual’s well-being, all partner organizations throughout the ecosystem need to have visibility into all of the pathways these individuals have taken, or could potentially take. 

Understanding these pathways—the activities and outcomes at the individual level—reveals the fine lines that divide the success stories from the individuals who are at risk of slipping through the cracks. Mission-driven professionals are constantly straddling this very granular level of detail with much higher, more objective levels of program results, and are asked to make data-driven decisions. With a deep sense of accountability for their clients, and their roles as responsible stewards of funder and donor resources, social sector leaders demonstrate a unique agility when it comes to balancing both of these perspectives.

For collective impact initiatives, organizations coordinate and track this type of data across multiple partners to evaluate the effectiveness of the entire initiative, as they strive to collectively create social change. By implementing the same mechanisms to track and report outcomes and measure participant needs across all of the participating organizations, collective impact initiatives can more easily achieve reductions in their cost per success, which can then be scaled across all of the participating organizations for even greater outcomes. 

Over the years, many of our clients have shared that the ability to more thoroughly measure and track their programs and services longitudinally is desperately needed. As individuals move through multiple systems and programs, the ability to track these activities helps organizations map out and predict future needs with higher accuracy. By creating longitudinal social records, organizations can not only track the services that people have accessed (and their outcomes as a result of receiving these services), but they can also track family relationships across multiple organizations, programs, and services. Having an at-a-glance household (or beyond) view can inform social sector professionals by providing a big-picture glimpse into a family’s needs and identify any gaps in services. 

While it is critical for nonprofit organizations and collective impact initiatives to report the sum of the social impact they achieve, many stories with similar plot lines tend to emerge. And it is these individual stories that unite our sector’s purpose and put faces to our missions. As humans, these stories powerfully illustrate the possibilities of goodness, and it is these stories that will attract and retain funders, donors, and long-term partners. 

SureImpact helps organizations clearly communicate what they did, how well they did it, and who is better off. To learn how SureImpact can empower your organization to achieve more over the next five years and beyond, check out our video "4 Guiding Principles for Becoming an Impact-Centric Organization."


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