Data-Driven Decision-Making: Transforming Data into Impact

Building on community response to the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) study released in February of this year highlighting poverty issues in North Texas, Communities Foundation of Texas launched a new initiative called the D3 Institute. D3, which stands for Data-Driven Decision-Making, is designed to provide organizations that offer programs and services for low-income working families with data-related tools to accelerate their integrated solutions to the social and economic problems facing North Texas. The goal is for agencies to use both qualitative and quantitative data to show impact and adjust strategies accordingly.

The D3 Institute is a rigorous 12-month curriculum and seminar series. It covers the data spectrum – from gathering and interpreting data to communicating data and influencing positive change. The North Texas nonprofit agencies participating in D3 receive a $10,000 general operating grant and may apply for additional funding as project groups to propose new solutions to the poverty issues tackled during the program. In addition to participating in learning sessions, each nonprofit will be matched with a data coach.  D3’s goal is for participants to have a greater shared understanding of the current issues and needs of the working poor and use data in more effective ways for program development and strategic decision-making.

A nice feature of the initiative is that it creates a co-learning environment.  “The selected agencies have important daily experience serving working families. They in turn will teach us through workshop conversations about the tangible challenges of those struggling to make ends meet-something that numbers and statistics can’t always capture, and that foundation staff can’t always see,” said Brent Christopher, president and CEO at Communities Foundation of Texas.

Sarah Cotton Nelson, the chief philanthropy officer at Communities Foundation of Texas, agrees:  “Ultimately, the goal is to combine the collective learning from data and experience to improve services available to working families across the region. We’ll all be learning together.”

The need for new approaches is clear.  The CFED study on wealth, poverty and opportunity in Dallas revealed that thirty-nine percent of all Dallas residents live in “asset poverty,” a new measurement of poverty defined as not having the financial means to support a household for three months at the federal poverty level (i.e., $4,632 for a family of three) should the main source of income be lost. The CFED study, commissioned by Communities Foundation of Texas and Thomson Family Foundation, profiles a Dallas where many people face financial vulnerability and suggests measures to help families achieve financial stability.

The D3 Institute promises to be a model for how to build the capacity of nonprofits to use data-driven approaches to tackle entrenched, complex problems. It encourages integrated solutions developed by project teams composed of multiple agencies. The initiative is designed to give agencies new tools and knowledge for innovative problem-solving.     

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