The End’s In Sight

9th May 16

Starting with ‘Ends’ – determining the outcome/s

Depending on the work that we are doing whether it be community planning with local government, a collective impact initiative, or even strategic planning within an organisation or network, beginning with the end outcome/s that you want to achieve or aspire to is critically important.  This is the decision that steers the ship and keeps the focus on the horizon toward that end outcome. 

We might all be in agreement that we want ‘All children to enter school ready to learn’, this then determines our conversations; the reason we are making a commitment to participate and the motivation to contribute to this outcome.  Without this agreement on an outcome in which to plan our course we can lose focus and direction.   The outcome also assists us initially to determine who might be our partners that contribute to us achieving this outcome (note: the list of partners will be further expanded once we analyse and tell the story behind the baseline).

So then as a starting point we must determine what it is that we have all shown up for, what that outcome/s are that we are aspiring to work towards. 

Once we determine the outcome/s we can then begin to gather the data (indicators) that will start to tell us how we are going on achieving the outcome/s.  Data is an incredibly important component of the process and allows us to have robust conversations around the story enabling strong analysis of what is really happening in our communities.  In general, we use 1-3 indicators at a population level to assist with this process and these form our headline measures. These are the indicators that have: communication power, proxy power and data power and we track this data over time. 

What happens when we do not use data?

  • When data is not included in the process our conversations can become limited and lose focus from the outcome we aspire to achieve. 
  • It is also very hard to track and communicate achievement of the contributions towards the outcomes if you don’t have the data from the beginning. 
  • An inability to track any change prevents you from identifying and making adjustments to what is not working and leveraging what is working. 
  • Lack of the right data can also impact whether or not you are doing the right things when you determine the means that you are going to implement to turn that curve.

So why is data so important in determining the means?

The indicators used only start the conversation and is certainly not the end of the story, but the beginning.  Data is used throughout the process ensuring that the conversations that we have are data related, outcome focused and robust so as to inform the ‘means’ in which to turn the curve in the right direction. 

When discussing the story behind the baseline, additional data that further enhances the story is also used at this point.  These indicators may not be headline indicators but they further highlight parts of the story of what is happening within a community. 

Recently I was in a region within NSW, this region has seen a significant increase in the % of reported domestic and family violence incidents where children are present, particularly in comparison to the state as a whole.  Within this region there are six significant local government areas, for each of these areas there was a different story as to the increase of reported domestic and family violence and in fact in one particular area it had reduced.  This type of data helps us to ask the question ‘what is happening in this area, that is maybe different to other areas within the region?’ or ‘what is the community in this area doing differently that we might be able to adopt in other areas across the region?’   If we didn’t use data in the story to enhance the robustness of our conversations and analysis of the forces that are contributing and restricting the turning of the curve, it would take us longer to get to the agreed ‘what works!’ contributions of the group. 

Data for some can be scary, but in fact it is a liberating tool that can be used to really inform and enhance our story, our decision making and prioritising of resources and implementation of strategies. 

If we don’t start with the ‘ends’ in sight, we can end up becoming stuck don’t what we have always done but also and most importantly not knowing if what we are doing is actually doing anything!