Written By: Dr. Rea N. Waldon, Urban League of Greater Cincinnati
Nicky Grist, National Urban League
Staff leaders at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati (ULGC) are using the latest techniques such as mapping for data gathering and analysis, to prepare senior level staff so they can make important programmatic decisions and better communicate the impact of their work. This game-changing action plan is the result of a unique, web-based interactive professional development session, created by Dr. Rea N. Waldon, ULGC’s Chief Operating Officer. Thirteen program directors attended the 90-minute, multi-media session designed and presented by Nicky Grist, National Urban League Senior Director for Evaluation, on Friday, March 22nd. “The goal of this session was to broaden the thinking and idea generation of key staff members at the League,” stated Dr. Waldon.
Ms. Grist, as lead trainer, pointed out that successful performance management involves three vital activities: 1) regularly collecting accurate information, 2) sharing it in useable formats, and 3) using it to make changes in the hope of improving services, programs or conditions. ULGC team members then shared their experiences about how programmatic data helps the people they serve, their staff, and their funding.
The heart of the session was an action-oriented training full of exercises and examples. Using real data and questions from ULGC’s Entrepreneurship Center, RExO and Project Ready programs, Ms. Grist explained how to decide whether a program has any problems with data quantity, quality or usefulness. Dr. Waldon stated many programs were doing a good job of collecting data to meet funder requirements, but needed to collect and assess extra information to understand and articulate “what is our secret sauce for success.” Using the information and dialogue provided by the staff, Grist focused on how to ask good questions and determine how data collected would provide information needed to answer the questions asked. She described the process mapping technique as the best methodology to improve data collection and usage, and emphasized the need to dedicate resources to the process and hold each other accountable.
In order to test the skills learned, each program team was given a “homework” assignment that requires using mapping skills to analyze a specific data problem. In their report back to the full group, each team will describe all the steps it takes to collect, research and use the data gathered with the final steps being the creation of a resource and accountability plan.
In this new approach to training, with Ms. Grist in New York City and the ULGC team split between Dayton and Cincinnati, handouts and exercises helped keep the session lively and engaging. Of the 13 participants, eight said they acquired a new idea, skill or approach about program information and data which they would use at work within the next few weeks, and eight said they acquired a new idea they want to learn more about before trying to use (three people selected both choices). Everyone found the main topics covered to be both interesting and useful.
The real test of the session’s value will come next quarter, when the group reconvenes to present (and, hopefully, celebrate) the results of their assignments.