Stuart McSkimming, CIO of the housing and homelessness nonprofit, Shelter, recently did an interview with Computer Weekly. In this interview, he spoke about how their agency is using data throughout operations to improve every facet of the organization. Shelter is a very large operation receiving about 4,000,000 inquiries a year and has over 1,000,000 participants in its database. An effective data management system has allowed Shelter to significantly improve their interactions with clients.
McSkimming pointed out that there are many digital ways Shelter serves their clients. “A lot of our projects now are around being able to act as a knowledge-based organisation, but doing that more in the digital world and less in the face-to-face world.” Shelter is standardizing their many data sources and systems by putting all their information into one centralized hub.
This centralization allows Shelter to give people the exact help they need, and assess the urgency of each situation. After their massive data upgrade from the inadequate system that was being used, they turned to other parts of the agency. They wove all areas of the business into their case management system, creating a complete picture of what Shelter does, as well as a roadmap for providing services to each client in their most vulnerable areas.
Shelter’s data management system is still a work in progress, but the work with data is central to the agency’s mission. McSkimming said that “this will help us to look at these problems in more depth, but also get other people involved in looking at the housing crisis and how we can actually make a change.”
While better data collection is always a plus, it is critical to make sure that data security is maintained. It is important to protect data as it is often sensitive information about vulnerable clients. Shelter has adjusted their firewall technology, upped security for mobile devices, and improved their own practices regarding data safety and security.
Shelter is starting to use its data system to scale its impact on homelessness, rather than just reporting on progress. Shelter is looking to do this by sharing information with other agencies that are also addressing the issue. They are specifically looking to partner with academic institutions to open up their data sets. These partnerships would allow the information from Shelter’s database to be combined with other data sets.
As McSkimming stated, the main question boils down to “What data do we have, and how we can use it better?” Shelter’s goal is to come up with a clear strategy on how to manage its information by next summer, and get a global data model in place. The agency is viewing its relationship with data management as a journey. The goal throughout that journey is to improve services to the homeless and make housing a reality for all.
Like Shelter, The Center for Violence-Free Relationships needed help making the switch from simply having data to using their data. While the Center was well established within the community and recognized for its expertise in domestic violence and sexual assault issues, program leaders were frustrated by their inability to demonstrate their program’s impact through data.
“Our data was not comprehensive enough for us to make any well-informed changes to our programs to improve their effectiveness. We could only make educated guesses.” Emma Owens, the Center’s Operations Manager and Program Analyst said.
The Center implemented Social Solutions’ ETO software and began using the system across multiple program areas. They started tracking participant progress toward goals based on needs assessments and monitoring staff activity such as session length and frequency, as well as the impact of those activities on outcomes. The Center also tracked program success rates, including how many legal program interventions resulted in participants following through with a divorce.
ETO software has enabled the Center to identify the success of their programs, particularly the Second Generation Project, a peer-reviewed program that serves children who have been exposed to family violence. This program has shown to be successful at reducing children’s PTSD rates, negative youth outcomes, and parent stress levels. The outcomes data from the Second Generation Project attracted the attention of foundations and funders and proved to be a successful tool for the Center’s fund development efforts.
After looking at the data they had collected, the Center decided to limit the scope of its mission and focus on just its highest impact programs. Owens says that “[Leveraging Data] helped us iron out how to really measure domestic violence and sexual assault services and know whether we are achieving outcomes.”
Second Generation Project 2012 Outcomes
- 57% improvement in Youth Outcomes Score – measures healthy coping skills and healthy responses to stress
- 53% decrease in Interpersonal Distress Score – measures ability to communicate and relate well with others
- 23% decrease in Behavioral Dysfunction Score – measures ability to organize tasks, complete assignments, concentrate, and handle frustration
- 29% decrease in PTSD index – measures severity of PTSD symptoms
Learn from organizations like Shelter and The Center for Violence-Free Relationship, and start maximizing your use of data. Social Solutions has a wide variety of products that can help. From small nonprofits to large nonprofits, and even government agencies, Social Solutions can customize a data solution for you. Take our interactive quiz to find out which system is right for your organization!