As I, like everyone else, am adjusting to working at home and practicing social distancing, I have been thinking about how to conduct my evaluation projects remotely. One thing that’s struck me as I’ve been retooling evaluation plans and data collection timelines is the need for even more evaluation capacity building around high-quality data collection for our clients. We will continue to rely on our clients to collect program data, and now that they’re working remotely too, a refresher on how to collect data well feels timely.
Below are some tips and tricks for increasing your clients’ capacity to collect their own high-quality data for use in evaluation and informed decision making.
Identify who will need to collect the data.
Especially with multiple-site programs or programs with multiple collectors, identifying who will be responsible for data collection and ensuring that all data collectors use the same tools is key to collecting similar data across the program.
Determine what is going to be collected.
Examine your tool. Consider the length of the tool, the types of data being requested, and the language used in the tool itself. When creating a tool that will be used by others, be certain that your tool will yield the data that you need and will make sense to those who will be using it. Test the tool with a small group of your data collectors, if possible, before full deployment.
Make sure data collectors know why the data is being collected.
When those collecting data understand how the data will be used, they’re more likely to be invested in the process and more likely to collect and report their data carefully. When you emphasize the crucial role that stakeholders play in collecting data, they see the value in the time they are spending using your tools.
Train data collectors on how to use your data collection tools.
Walking data collectors through the step-by-step process of using your data collection tool, even if the tool is a basic intake form, will ensure that all collectors use the tool in the same way. It will also ensure they have had a chance to walk through the best way to use the tool before they actually need to implement it. Provide written instructions, too, so that they can refer to them in the future.
Determine an appropriate schedule for when data will be reported.
To ensure that your data reporting schedule is not overly burdensome, consider the time commitment that the data collection may entail, as well as what else the collectors have on their plates.
Conduct regular quality checks of what data is collected.
Checking the data regularly allows you to employ a quality control process and promptly identify when data collectors are having issues. Catching these errors quickly will allow for easier course correction.