Case Study 1: Using data in programmatic decision-making

Tricycle worked with a nutrition focused nonprofit to help them kick-start their efforts to make evidence based decision making part of the organizational culture.

In its work with the organization Tricycle focused on one of its core principles: that data collection should never be on a separate track, unconnected to the organization’s programmatic focus. Instead, it should be integrated into the day-to-day work of the organization, providing leadership and staff with information that will help them answer pressing questions and make key decisions. 

While the organization was collecting data via various methods, much of the day-to-day decision making made by programmatic staff relied on their experience and expertise. Leadership wanted to develop a more data-driven understanding of how clients used existing services; this knowledge would enable staff to make more nuanced programmatic decisions as well as design/redesign services accordingly.

Tricycle provided coaching to leadership and program staff to put in place - and act on the learning generated from - both formal and informal feedback loops. The goal was to help staff understand the various ways data could be gathered, and what factors to take into consideration when designing a particular feedback loop. For example: when is it useful to deploy a formal survey with a representative sample of users vs. when is it more appropriate speak to clients on the phone or face-to-face? How can questions be written and delivered to obtain the most impartial answers? What are ways to collect data beyond surveys and questionnaires? And how can new data collection efforts be integrated into existing data collection work so as not to place an undue burden on clients or staff?

The organization was conducting a strategic planning process at the time of the engagement, making it an ideal moment for the organization to focus on a key aspect of the work: tying data collection via feedback loops to decision-making. Tricycle worked with leadership to prioritize data collection efforts by helping them think through: i) what are key decisions we need to make and pressing questions we need to answer; ii) what information do we need make these decisions and answer these questions; iii) what are the most efficient and effective ways to obtain it?

By helping leadership and staff understand how to tie feedback loop creation to decision making, Tricycle worked to ensure the nonprofit would:

·      Examine and act on collected data;

·      Use resources put towards data collection effectively;

·      Begin to develop an organizational culture of data for learning and action.