Think Tank Taps Crowdsourcing for New Methodology

There is now evidence to support utilizing social media to harness large groups to help inform policy-making and other far-reaching decision processes. RAND Corporation recently released findings from early testing of a model that combines online technology and social media to conduct cost-effective data gathering exercises designed to advise planning and policy around current events or issues.

The system, ExpertLens, combines three methods, the Nominal Group Technique, the Delphi Method and crowdsourcing – a public request for input directed to a large segment of people, usually by way of social media outlets. This approach is expected to increase expert input as well as enable faster information compilation and analysis.

Innovation is driving new and better approaches to research design – my inner research geek rejoices! I especially love how concepts plucked from a social media phenomenon such as crowdsourcing are being used to improve think tank practices. My hope is that additional work is done around how crowdsourcing can be successfully (and reliably) used outside of the ecommerce and marketing arenas. In my opinion, the social sciences need not take a “wait and see” approach.

Reclaiming Measurement in the Human Services

Inputs, outcomes, program evaluation, best-practices, the gold-standard – our familiarity with these terms speaks to how ingrained measurement has become in the daily operations of nonprofits, especially for human and social service organizations. Program and other service data is used to drive decision-making and report performance to external stakeholders – especially funders – but the collecting, recording, analyzing and making use of it can easily become an infernal nightmare as described in the post Performance Measurement in Human Services: From Challenge to Opportunity by Matthew Forti at the Bridgespan Group web page.

What is a nonprofit director to do when multiple, often varied (or worse, duplicated), accountability measures lead to inefficient use of time (extensive data collection), start eating up chunks of the budget (temporary hires to catch up on a backlog of data entry and/or accuracy issues) and otherwise draw the focus away from the organization’s programming, service delivery and mission? Well, for starters, don’t let measurement own you – you must reclaim measurement. Revisit, and if necessary, revise its purpose, methods and role in your nonprofit. Mr. Forti offers several starting points for your journey toward streamlining and improving performance measurement (including a link to a white paper on measurement), all appropriate for nonprofits of any size.

Metrics, databases and reporting requirements won’t disappear, and sometimes, with some funders, they may not even make sense. That said, measurement will improve your services and your bottom line when used intelligently, proactively and consistently by leaders who recognize its value. Set the tone for your team. Make measurement work for you – not the other way around.

New Portal Gives Access to Health and Healthcare Data

Last week, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) debuted a web portal that provides indicator data on health and healthcare. The Health Indicators Warehouse houses over 1200 health and healthcare indicators from over 170 data sources as well as profiles, rankings, quality measures and utilization reports. According to the HHS announcement, the website will also support automated data services through application programming interfaces or APIs.

If your duties include policy analysis, program development, needs assessment, training or grant and/or proposal writing this is an excellent resource for data ranging from illness prevalence, to risk factors, to socioeconomic status.
Visit, play, bookmark.

New Website: Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact

Are you in need of resources for empirically determining the impact of a nonprofit initiative? Check out the recently launched Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact (TRASI) website. This site, the culmination of a partnership between The Foundation Center and McKinsey & Co., features assessment approaches developed by and for a wide range of not-for-profit organizations. TRASI is described as “an online portal of resources for impact assessment” that includes a selection of podcasts and videos, as well as the more traditional section of articles and a searchable database of methodologies for measuring the effect of programming in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.

So, put on your research hat and visit the TRASI community to learn about all sorts of strategies for measuring your impact on the community.