This is the third of three teaching collections on Discovering What Works in the field of social change. The stories here are about using data to guide and evaluate social change. In part 2 of this series, Rapid Results, we read a piece by David Bornstein that identified the use of data as an important component of what has made the 100-day challenge to end homelessness effective. In this collection, we explore further how efforts at social change can leverage data and evidence to their advantage.
The story by Victor Luckerson builds on the idea that the use of data and evidence can enhance the performance of nonprofit organizations, not just in transparency to donors, but also in their day-to-day work. The other stories address the ways in which data gathering and analysis form an important component in specific campaigns, including public health initiatives and the war on poverty. Finally, we see how crowdsourcing data collection can help us to observe otherwise elusive trends!
Click here to explore other social change Success Factors represented in the StoryTracker
- Identify some of the primary ways in which organizations employ data collection. According to the piece by Luckerson, what types of data collection are more common among nonprofits? Is there room for improvement?
- In the story, What is the public health approach to violence — and does it work, what are the four key points of public health methodology identified? Can you identify another issue area where this methodology has been applied? Can you find a story about it?
- The story about public health methodology also raises ethical issues about the data collection. In this case, and in others like it, do the ends justify the means?
- Think about the implications for social and environmental change now that the masses can participate in gathering usable data for researchers and change makers. Think about a problem you are passionate about solving. Can you think of a way that wide scale gathering of data might help you solve that problem?
- Can you find other stories in the StoryTracker that illustrate the effectiveness of gathering and analyzing data? Create a collection to share and discuss.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- As Luckerson’s piece explains, nonprofit organizations have traditionally employed data collection as a way to increase transparency, donor relations, and as a tool for financial accountability. The article also explains that data collection can also help an organization improve its functionality. Using data helps an organization adjust to challenges by informing decisions with evidence of what works—this echoes David Bornstein’s observations in the previous collection regarding 100-day challenges to fight homelessness.
- The four aspects of public health methodology identified in the Apolitical piece are: using data and analysis to identify and understand the problem; enrolling multiple actors and services into addressing the problem; evaluating the impact through evidence of results; scaling up successful aspects of the approach. You should have students consider what is meant by “understanding the problem.” Can data show us everything? How does this relate to the human aspect brought up by Bornstein’s piece in the previous collection?
- In the article, issues of cross-agency data sharing come up as a particular concern when they trigger fears of discrimination and racial profiling. Encourage students to consider questions of privacy in today’s wider context of data security and privacy. Do the ends justify the means for social interventions? Does this differ when it comes to services of convenience? What about the monetization of our data by for-profit entities?
- Encourage students to think about the kinds of questions that would benefit from crowdsourcing data. Citizen science initiatives also offer a good example of crowdsourcing data.
- Answers will vary—for more on creating collections, click here. For more on Success Factors, click here.