Connected Insights Blog:

Connecting Information to Insight

New Year, New Projects!

Well, there is no longer any avoiding it. 2018 is officially in the history books. We feel pretty proud of what we accomplished in our first fiscal year, (see our last post), but projects are already rolling in for this Spring and there’s no time for sitting around resting on laurels.

First up, we’re very excited to announce a new project with Merrick House! Merrick House has been an essential community organization in the Tremont area for decades. From the MomsFirst prenatal program, to early childhood education, after-school programs, preparing to take the GED, to computer literacy and life skills, there isn’t a stage of life that Merrick House doesn’t have curriculum and support for.

But despite their wide range of community initiatives, what they are lacking is a definitive strategy for tracking their impact on the populations they serve. Sure, a trainer might be able to say they had a certain number of people attend classes, but did those classes make a measurable impact on the students’ lives after? What parts of the program worked best, and what didn’t quite stick? Are certain students missing more classes than others, and should accessibility be changed? These are all very hard questions to answer when you’re not tracking the right data. And that data can be incredibly important not only for organizational improvement, but also when it comes time to make a budget or apply for grants.

Connected Insights will be working with Merrick House to create key performance indications, collect the correct relevant data, and build a complete organizational strategy for continued collection and evaluation. This will give them the data they need to see what they’re doing right, and analyze where improvement could be made. We’re excited because this is one of the first times we’ll be stretching our wings outside the world of Digital Inclusion, with a long established community organization whose work covers so many different fields. It’s a chance to apply our expertise to the greater world of non-profits, and to work with an organization whose work we already respect so much.

We’ll also be starting a small project with the Lorain City School District this Spring. Lorain schools faces many of the very same issues that the Cleveland school system faces: an F rating, rampant poverty, student transiency, and low test scores. Now faced with the ever-looming problem of funding in the face of those problems, LCSD will be evaluating the usefulness of a fund they created to offer teachers small classroom grants.

These grants can be used for a variety of projects, from field trips to in-class experiments, and the teachers who use them will tell you they improve the student experience. But how do you track student experience? In a educational system that relies so much on test scores for teacher evaluation and funding, what kind of metrics can be used instead of testing? How can we creatively measure impacts that are not related to grades? That may look like tracking whether or not a student shows more sustained interest in a subject, or has better attendance because they are more excited to come to school. How can we tell what a student has absorbed beyond just regurgitation on a Scantron sheet, and what kind of metrics can be used to paint a more accurate picture of this kind of multidimensional learning? It’s a topic our founder Samantha is passionate about, and we’re excited to see what this kind of non-traditional evaluation can look like.

And lastly, we’ll be working with Digital C, doing a program impact study of their Cleveland Foundation-funded ReStart program. ReStart is a basic digital literacy program, free to qualifying Cleveland residents, and our work here will be very similar to the impact study we did for the Connect Your Community project. So it’s right in our wheelhouse.

It’s going to be busy Spring!