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Enhancing Data Quality and Utilization: A Data Collection Strategy for Community Organizations

We helped a BC community group navigate data challenges and craft a data collection strategy for insights-informed decision-making.

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The importance of data consistency

Organizations prioritize the consistency of their data. They expect it to be reliable and uniform every time it's accessed or shared. A provincial organization collecting data from hundreds of community organizations across BC approached OXD not only to refine their data consistency and collection process but also to identify the ideal product that would transform their data into actionable insights.

Ensuring data consistency across organizations entails verifying that the data remains uniform and trustworthy, regardless of where or how it's accessed. However, when data originates from diverse organizational sources, maintaining this consistency becomes challenging. Each organization our client collaborated with had unique methods of data collection and formatting, leading to potential confusion and data gaps in the sector.

Our client wanted to replace their existing data collection and information systems with an efficient, effective, and sustainable solution, while enabling community organizations to use data assets for informed decision-making.

What they needed was a robust, efficient, and effective data management and analytics system.

But which one?

The process behind an effective data collection strategy

Instead of jumping straight to software recommendations, OXD talked to the people who use and populate the current data collection and reporting system. We first conducted a series of alignment sessions and workshops with the key partners involved in the project. We then facilitated user interviews to help us understand the user experience of interacting with community data, as well as emerging opportunities to address identified challenges. Through methods similar to those employed in another client project, we uncovered key findings and themes that drove our approach.

One challenge we uncovered was varying levels of data literacy—competencies involved in working with data—across the many volunteers at the various community organizations, making it challenging to turn data into actionable insights.

There is a photo of two people closer-up with some people in the background who are at an outdoor event and filling forms to participate in an event to support the concept of data collection strategy for member-based organizations.

To address the varying data literacy levels, we advocated improving skills that were in line with the principles of the Data Literacy Project. This approach aimed to empower community members to learn how to better derive insights and make data-informed decisions.

We also needed to enhance the data quality—striving to collect only the required user data to give equal or greater value back to their community members—while keeping user data safe and maintaining user privacy.

Our comprehensive, service-design-led approach helped us to understand the client's needs, their existing processes, and the overall data literacy levels across the sector. We quickly identified the scope of their problem and the factors influencing data consistency among their community organizations.

These user and organizational needs informed the prioritization of requirements and technical solutions. We then drafted and reviewed technical evaluation criteria and analyzed a short list of off-the-shelf products and platforms. Our recommendations shortlisted several products and platforms to improve data quality and streamline data management, including a data collection replacement product with real-time dashboards for online reporting.

A data collection strategy for a stronger community ecosystem

Recognizing the inherent complexity of the community ecosystem, we proposed a distributed data system instead of a centralized one. This approach would allow the people handling the data to keep doing what they did best, while our client would provide additional value to smaller organizations by offering access to the software platform where they could interact with data visualizations for making decisions.

Our client was able to make their data more accessible, facilitate self-service data reporting, and improve their relationship with contributing community organizations across the sector.

Insights powered by human-centred design

Here are some key insights:

There is a green circle icon with 3 puzzles greens in shades of green to the left of the subheadline: Importance of tailored solutions

Importance of tailored solutions

A one-size-fits-all solution is not always the best approach, especially in a complex ecosystem with different needs and strengths.

Next there is a green icon with a stack of 5 books to the left of the subheadline: Value of data literacy

Value of data literacy

Enhancing data literacy across an organization or sector empowers individuals to find meaningful insights in their data, leading to more effective decision-making.

Next, there is a green icon and inside is a bunch of lines connected but various sized dots, to the left of the subheadline: Power of collaboration

Power of collaboration

Strengthening relationships and fostering collaborations with other organizations can provide access to more diverse and comprehensive data sets.

Then there is the last icon in shades of green that contains many arrows that are all moving in different directions, to the left of a subheadline: Embrace complexity

Embrace complexity

Rather than oversimplifying, working within an ecosystem's inherent complexities can yield resilient and effective solutions.

While data quality presents itself as a technical challenge, the right data collection strategy, coupled with a human-centred approach, allows organizations to boost their data quality, elevate data literacy, and harness their data for improved decision-making.