How many times in your nonprofit career have you heard someone use data to justify inaction or to question action? For instance: “Do you have data to back that up?” or “I just don’t have the data to make a decision yet.”
Having data is important, but the irony is that we are constantly swimming in it. Starting around March, with COVID-19, I know many of us in the nonprofit sector felt inundated by surveys and questionnaires, from organizations trying to understand our needs during this unprecedented time.
At Mission Capital, we’ve definitely been one of those frequent data requesters, often landing in your spam box. As we navigated this space of playing an intermediary role, trying to support the nonprofit sector with yet more data, we also began to notice interesting, seemingly paradoxical realities:
• As a community we are “swimming in data,” but it is in siloes and not easily accessible.
• There is a lot of duplication of efforts to gather the same insights.
• The siloed nature of the disparate data and data sets makes it hard to synthesize.
In our efforts to address these realities, we applied a systems entrepreneurial approach, looking for opportunities to collaborate with others on data and insights work.
With multiple partners, we put two Central Texas nonprofit “pulse surveys” in the field to help gather insights about the needs of nonprofits and better understand the compounding effects of historical inequities during COVID-19. We will be rolling out multiple blog posts associated with these “pulses” over the coming months, but you can also find the insights on our COVID-19 Response site.
In collaboration with CAN and UWATX, we organized a number of conversations with organizations and individuals who do a lot of “data work” to better understand what data needs there may be and what work was being done. We then hosted an experimental data insights jam, where intermediaries shared their local data insights (e.g. dashboards, surveys) with folks interested in specific topic areas (food, housing, health, youth/education). We used a tool called Miro to capture questions and thoughts related to the data, topic area, and issues around data and equity.
In our second pulse survey, we announced that Mission Capital would be working to connect respondents around specific topic areas of interest that emerged in first pulse survey. We asked respondents to select the areas of potential collaboration of interest, and provide contact info so that we could connect them to others or to resources. One thing we are cognizant of is that there are already so many groups working to support collaborative efforts and COVID-19 responses in Central Texas.
At Mission Capital, we want to find a way to support that ongoing work and connect more nonprofits and advocates to it, rather than create new and duplicative efforts. We kicked off this exploration and effort with a virtual drop-in event on June 23, where anyone could join to provide insights and input about what is needed in these key areas:
• Technology & Digital Access
• Health & Well Being
• Basic Needs (e.g. housing, food)
• Supplies & Personal Protection Equipment
• Program Mergers
• Mental Health
• Shared Services or Mergers/Acquisitions
In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out more details about collaboration next steps associated with each area. We will also share more about efforts to amplify existing data work, and more opportunities for folks to connect with key areas of need locally. If you are building collaborations or are interested in doing so, we would love to learn how we can help. We are excited to more deeply explore this role of connecting and supporting your mission in this new environment!
If you want to know more, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org! We’d love to hear from you!