Rebecca Larson, Southwest Regional Council member
As a new Council Member, how has your background in measurement and evaluation contributed to the work of the Southwest Regional Council?
My background helps me to ask questions, look to facts, and objectively analyze the direction our Council is moving related to our priority areas. If a program or organization cannot show that they are evaluating some aspect of what they are doing, it makes it difficult to know if we are making a wise investment in their efforts. If an organization cannot explain the needs behind their strategies, it makes it challenging to understand if a need even exists. I am encouraging our decisions to be data-driven so that we are working from the facts of local needs and program effectiveness.
What are the implications of a larger emphasis on data and measurement for Regional Councils?
Using data allows councils to know where they are starting from and what impact they will have down the road. Without these best practices in place, we cannot know if we are reaching our intended outcomes. It is also helpful for the Trustees to know that the councils are making data-driven recommendations for investment. Lastly, emphasizing these best practices helps communities become more sustainable as they increase their focus on data through funding processes.
What advice do you have for other councils who are looking to put more emphasis on measurement and data evaluation?
There are several keys for success that councils can consider to enhance their assessment and evaluation processes. As Stephen Covey says in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” For councils, this means to focus on outcomes from the start by asking what impact you wish to achieve by supporting a specific topic or initiative.
Before you decidewhere you want to go, it’s helpful to know where you’re starting from. Understanding the current state of affairs in a community is essential for understanding success in the future. Sharing stories and conducting interviews or focus groups are helpful qualitative methods to assess community needs and these should be partnered with quantitative data that are more objective and can provide facts to accompany the stories and experiences of people in the region. Because we all have lived mental models about what is happening in our community, our perspectives are limited to our experiences. Quantitative data can provide a broader understanding about what is happening in a region. These data processes should not just be the responsibility of the councils to collect but also the entities that are being funded. What is the baseline they are trying to shift with an investment from El Pomar Foundation? What is the data they are tracking? This becomes a partnership around capacity building and sustainability for both council and community.