Data: A Necessary Force To Measure Impact
By Brittany Fitz-Chapman
Data doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. If you think about it, you have been using data your entire life to assess your well-being. For example, for every assignment you completed in school you were awarded a grade. At the end of high school, you were given your class rank based on your grade point average. When you feel sick, you take your temperature. Data has been informing your decision making process for a long time. You can use data at a community-level, as well. Data enables us to assess the well-being of our community and allows us to measure the impact programs and organizations are having.
Prosper Waco has been tasked with monitoring the health and well-being of our community through a series of data points, or what data people call “indicators.” Just like changes in body temperature may signal that you are getting sick, changes in community-level indicators suggest how healthy we are as a community.
When you are sick, your first reaction is to treat the symptoms, right? Let’s say you have a stuffy nose from allergies. You will go to H-E-B, use some Vicks rub and hope you get better. But, to cure the stuffy nose from allergies, you’ll need to go to your doctor and get allergy medicine. Prosper Waco community partners, organizations, community members and all others involved in the community-wide initiative ultimately want to treat the causes, not just the symptoms of our community’s health. The indicators we monitor allow our steering communities, working groups and community partners to treat the causes.
For example, community members, organizations and leaders in Waco decided to make school readiness a priority, and the Prosper Waco Education Steering Committee developed a measurable goal for our community—to increase the percentage of Kindergarten-ready students by 50 percent by 2020. The working group has collaboratively discussed different projects, programs and initiatives they can all rally behind to help address this goal. One initiative community partners are rallying behind is Vroom. Vroom is an app that you can download on your smartphone, tablet (be sure to select “iPhone-only” apps!), or computer that provides daily, age-appropriate brain building activities adults can do with children ages 0-5 to help prepare them for Kindergarten. Each activity is paired with an explanation of the science behind the activity, allowing the adult to understand how that specific activity is developing the brain of the child.
Within the Prosper Waco working group that is focused on Kindergarten readiness, affiliate organizations have been collaborating and talking about other ways they can all work together to help create a culture of family engagement that prepares children to thrive when they enter the classroom. One example is a partnership between Waco ISD and the Mayborn Museum. They are developing a free Science Night for the children and families in our community. This Science Night will allow families to interact with their children at the museum, discuss the different exhibits and experience everything the museum has to offer! Using data from the school readiness monitoring tool, WISD and the Mayborn Museum can tailor the educational content of these nights, and they can use the data to help target their efforts on school campuses that may be struggling in the science content area.
The Prosper Waco initiative tracks indicators around our three impact areas – education, health and financial security. To find out more about how our community is doing, read our 2015 Greater Waco Community Indicators Scorecard and attend our 2016 Summit Event in September where you will get a copy of our Community Baseline Report. I look forward to seeing all of you and would love to talk data with you!
Brittany Fitz-Chapman works at Prosper Waco as the Director of Data and Research. She is a graduate of Baylor University. She holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her PhD in Sociology at Baylor. She has engaged in community research in Waco and has published professional articles about what makes communities strong. She enjoys exploring Waco with her husband and their two puppies!
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.