We all know data is now regarded as an essential resource in our economy, informing decision making in all levels of Government and business. It impacts the way we live and work every day.

Knowing this, how can small organisations hope to compete with larger organisations, when it comes to accessing, sharing and collaborating with data to better meet their targets or improve their offering? And, when so many funding and program decisions are based on data, how do smaller organisations find the time and resources to become data-led in their decision making to help them achieve their visions for change and their goals for funding, partnerships and impact?

“The work is not easy; one in three children start school developmentally vulnerable in Mt Druitt, which is among some of the lowest results for a community in Australia.”

This is the problem we’re solving for smaller organisations.

Beyond the Bell Great South Coast Ltd is one organisation shining a light on how it can be done. An ambitious initiative that began in 2012, this small grassroots group is leading a cultural shift in the way communities and service providers work to support young people in the Great South Coast region of Victoria. Evidence and data are at the core of all its decision-making.

Executive Officer of Beyond the Bell, Kate Roache, explained to me that, in applying for grants, the small executive team rely on data to identify where the key issues lie and the impact of new programs, such as the organisation’s Stepping Stones to school initiative being rolled out over the next three years.

In February this year, Beyond the Bell updated its data assets by creating more than 50 new insights with the Seer Data Platform. These insights identified changes in community needs since 2012 and to were used to build the evidence for strategy and funding applications. The new data-driven insights gave the Beyond the Bell team confidence in its approach and were shared with more than 40 stakeholders, including Victoria’s Department of Education, local schools and early years education providers.

The data was used in submissions to funders, which resulted in a groundbreaking partnership with a philanthropic foundation including $450,000 in new grant funding.

Kate said Beyond the Bell works with many different regional groups and must demonstrate trends, needs and important interventions to all its partners to ensure it can execute on strategies that will ultimately improve the lives of people in those communities. Easy access to data is the critical first step to achieve this objective.

Being a Data-Led Organisation

For all organisations – irrespective of size – it’s worth noting the following principles:

  1. Culture of curiosity: Questions can come from clients, partners, frontline teams, the board – the science of data will not only help you answer those questions but will uncover astounding clues for your work.
  2. Access is key: Use information that is publically available, as well as data you collect or data that’s locked within your organisation.
  3. Share: Community organisations that share data can accelerate their learning.
  4. Responsible data governance: Apply an ethical lens to how your organisation works with data.
  5. No story without data: Local knowledge to interpret the data allows communities to tell their own stories.

Is your organisation making the best use of data to help meet your goals? Do you know where to access the data you need?

In my experience working with hundreds of organisations, there’s no doubt the prospect of going down this path can be daunting for smaller organisations and not for profits, in particular. But, as Beyond the Bell has shown, it is also an empowering step that delivers vital insights, information and results. And, in today’s competitive environment, that is compelling evidence for anyone.

How to use data in your organisation

  • Situational analysis: for understanding your community or context area.
  • Diagnosis: for understanding the problem more deeply and uncovering new insights about the reasons for that problem.
  • Prediction: for estimating the likely future based on current and historical data.
  • Impact assessment: for gathering information to continuously improve program or service delivery, as well as measuring change.

Do you have a story about how you’re using data to insight to impact? Please get in touch!