Promoting Sustainable Data Use in State Programs

New toolkit will assist agencies in building analytic capabilities

A new toolkit helps public sector agencies build the culture and infrastructure to apply data analysis routinely, effectively, and accurately—what we call “sustainable data use.”  It is meant to serve as a hands-on resource, containing strategies and tools for agencies seeking to grow their analytic capacity. 

Administrative data can be a rich source of information for human services agencies seeking to improve programs. But too often, data use in state agencies is temporary, dependent on funds and training from short-term resources such as pilot projects and grants. How can agencies instead move from data to knowledge to action routinely, creating a reinforcing cycle of evidence-building and program improvement?

Chapin Hall experts and experts at partner organizations set out to determine who achieves sustainable data use and how they go about doing so. Building on previous work and the results of a literature review, we identified domains that can significantly influence an agency’s ability to establish sustainable data practices. We then focused on eight state TANF agencies and three partner organizations with demonstrated successes in one or more of these domains, and we interviewed staff who work directly with data to learn more about what strategies they used to achieve success. We focused on what worked rather than what didn’t. From those interviews, we identified common themes, developed case studies, and generated tools to help agencies develop sustainable data practices. 

This Toolkit is meant to be used in a modular fashion, with users jumping into whatever sections seem the most relevant to their needs. A self-assessment of sustainable data use is available to allow for reflection on an agency’s data use; the results of this self-assessment can help guide the reader to the most appropriate areas of the toolkit. See below for an overview of the toolkit content. 

For help with:Start here:
Getting started thinking about sustainabilitySection 2: Conditions for Sustainable Data Analytics
Identifying existing barriers to sustainability in your agencyTool 1: Sustainable Data Use Self-Assessment
Encouraging support for (and use of) your agency's analyticsSection 3: Strategies to Foster Demand
Recruiting and hiring analytic staffSection 4: Strategies to Build Staff Capacity
Tool 2: Sample Language for Creating Job Descriptions for Data Analytics Staff
Tool 3: Sample Interview Questions for Hiring Data Analytics Staff
Building strong external partnerships (such as with universities) to augment analytic capacitySection 5: Strategies to Build Capacity through External Partnerships
Fostering internal communication and collaboration around analyticsSection 6: Strategies to Improve Internal Communications
Improving documentation and management of institutional knowledgeSection 7: Strategies to Improve Knowledge Management and Documentation
Tool 5: Documentation Checklist
Securing necessary funding for analytic effortsSection 8: Strategies to Secure Funding

Chapin Hall’s work on effective data use in human services work is extensive, including our work with the Family Self-Sufficiency Data Center and TANF Data Innovations. The staff team who developed this toolkit includes Emily Wiegand, Senior Researcher and Analytics Manager; Dr. Emma Monahan, Senior Researcher; Rose Geoghegan, Associate Researcher and Data Analyst; and Dr. Robert Goerge, Senior Research Fellow. For more information about this work, contact Emma Monahan, 

Toolkit for Sustainable Data Use