Social services organisations gather data for a variety of reasons. The primary driver for many has been the need to report to funders in order demonstrate the effectiveness of their services. However, quite quickly, this data is also used to help inform a range of reflective practices. From a practitioner’s perspective, they consider, “who have I worked with”, “what difference did I make”, and “what learnings can I take from these interactions?”. From an organisational perspective the data can help answer questions about organisational effectiveness, focus on mission and contribution to community. Managers can see who is working with whom, understand differing workloads and the complexity of the work being undertaken.
There is also the opportunity to understand the impacts of government social and economic policy on the families and communities being engaged with. The data collected, the ebb and flow of clients and the reasons why they are seeking support all demonstrate how government policy affects families. Changes in this ebb and flow, when aligned with changes in policy can demonstrate consequences, both intended and unintended, from these policy changes. This data can be a powerful tool in advocating for social justice.
NZCCSS has been working with a group of members for some time, gaining a better understanding of the data they are collecting and the client management systems they are using. We recently hosted these members to two hui, one in Auckland and one in Christchurch, where participants shared their systems and processes with each other and with NZCCSS. This has helped us develop a more refined understanding. We are now working with an IT company to develop a system of gathering fully anonymised and aggregated at source data, which can be reaggregated to tell a regional and national social justice story about the numbers and needs of a sample of NZCCSS members’ clients.
This data will be used by NZCCSS to populate a dashboard on our website, so you can track changes every quarter. Every six months we will publish a report based on the data, and including narrative, the lived experience of the client and the service provider, to highlight trends and issues. We will use these reports to inform our work on advisory groups to government ministries, our submissions to select committees and our discussions with ministers of the crown.
Once we have the system working we will create opportunities for other NZCCSS members to share their aggregated data with us. The greater the sample the better our ability to accurately report trends. We will publish our first reports as soon as we can ensure we have a valid and reliable data capture and analysis system. While there is still three of four further months of work in front of us we are excited about the possibilities this “data for social justice’ project holds.