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Field Notes

NPEA Conference Reflections: The Growing Importance of Data and Measurement

April 28, 2014

I’m just back from the 6th Annual National Partnerships for Educational Access (NPEA) conference in Minneapolis. While the weather left a lot to be desired, the conference content, speakers, and participants were top notch!

With an audience of mostly schools and after-school programs, the NPEA conference has typically focused on best practices in programming and has offered members an opportunity to share what works and learn from each other. The energy that comes from this type of sharing is incredible.

This year, data, assessment, and evaluation were hot topics on the agenda. A total of six data-related sessions were offered and participants could attend one during almost every set of workshops. Contrast that with just two years ago in Chicago, where participants had the opportunity to attend only one such session.

At these sessions, conference participants demonstrated a strong interest in learning about how they can KNOW (through data and feedback) that their programs are effective and that they are set up to achieve excellent outcomes. The data sessions were incredibly well attended – each one I ducked into had an audience of executive directors, development directors, and program directors and staff. And the audience was always engaged and looking to learn more.

This increased interest in using data to develop and monitor high quality programs is reflective of the larger trend in the nonprofit field. Nonprofits and funders are both increasingly recognizing that while the anecdotes are important, they need data to tell the whole story and demonstrate impact. Direct service organizations are hungry to use data more effectively to ensure high quality programming and raise funding.

I had the pleasure of presenting with two of Root Cause’s Peer Performance Exchange members: Kelly Glew, President of the Steppingstone Foundation and Liz Steyer, Executive Director of the Athletic Scholars Advancement Program. If you’re interested in learning about Root Cause’s perspective about the internal metrics and external assessments that make up a solid performance measurement system, as well as Kelly’s and Liz’s experiences using data to improve program quality in a variety of ways, you can find our presentation, as well as other data-related presentations, here.

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