Using Data for Impact

Our data collection, analysis, and use initiative launched in the fall of 2018 with support from Ballmer Group Philanthropy and in partnership with 17 of the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions (FCS) Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) network communities. Ballmer Group Philanthropy has continually invested in building data capacity for the broader OYF network.

Using data is critical to understanding which approaches are working to improve outcomes for opportunity youth and identifying where inequities persist. We believe a focus on data is fundamental to designing and assessing efforts that aim to increase equity.

Phase one of this initiative, called Equity Counts, grew out of the substantial progress OYF communities have shown over the last five years, connecting opportunity youth to education and career pathways. The ultimate goal of Equity Counts was to build capacity for data collection, analysis and use at both the network and community level to drive and inform programmatic and policy decisions, increase quality of services, and ultimately accelerate improved and more equitable outcomes for opportunity youth.

Phase two of the project, known as Data for Impact, was made possible by another investment by Ballmer Group Philanthropy. Three OYF communities received up to $800,000, a maximum of $200,000 per year, over a four-year period. This brings the overall investment to the OYF network totaling $3.2 million.

As a national network at scale, this support enables us to continue our commitment to impact by working with a handful of community partners to build out dramatically improved data capacity at both the community and partner level. The communities are:

  • The Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC), which will engage their largest institutional partners, Boston Public Schools (BPS) and Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), in a data capacity and analysis project to provide system-level and continuous improvement data to reduce high school and postsecondary disconnection rates.
  • The Philadelphia Youth Network, Inc. (PYN), on behalf of Project U-Turn, will work with partners to expand its data tracking and reporting capacity to accelerate citywide efforts to reduce Philadelphia’s community disconnection rate by 20 percent (approximately 6,762 youth) over the next four years.
  • The Community Center for Education Results (Seattle/South King County, Washington) through their collaborative, the Road Map Project, will support the development of data-driven continuous improvement capacity within reengagement programs in order to improve student outcomes and close gaps in their opportunity youth work.

Read more about each community’s project.

Data for Impact has two primary goals: increasing collaborative data capacity, especially the utilization of data to drive equity and improvement based on one or more of the Data Use Framework elements and significantly improve at least one youth-level opportunity youth outcome in alignment with the OYF Common Measures.

We will be establishing network-wide impact goals across the entire OYF network and are providing data, technical assistance and training, as described in the Data for Impact page.

“Having a population-level goal is not enough—we need to break it down by race and gender. In Chicago, Latinx youth disconnection rates are lower than black youth and female OY disconnect rates are lower than males. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach and that’s why we developed specific goals to address these specific populations.” – Thrive Chicago

Equity Counts (2018-2019)

Six data collection pilot sites were selected for Equity Counts: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Santa Clara (Calif.), Oakland, and Philadelphia. Each of these sites participated in and advanced work to define common measures, create a framework for data use across network communities,  as well as run a trial data collection and analysis using the new measures. The additional 11 OYF communities participated in additional learning community, needs assessments and planning activities.

Equity Counts established four unique OYF Common Measures for our network communities:

Overall community disconnection rate – The rate of young people disconnected from work and school (i.e., opportunity youth).

High school disconnection rate – The rate of young people without a high school diploma/GED and not working who are disconnected from high school.

Postsecondary disconnection rate The rate of young people with a high school diploma/GED, without a postsecondary credential who are disconnected from postsecondary education and not working.

Workforce disconnection rate – The rate of young people with a postsecondary credential, but not enrolled in postsecondary, who are disconnected from the workforce.

Each of these rates are calculated for these communities using customized geographic boundaries that reflect their catchment areas, and are then disaggregated by several characteristics including race, gender, ethnicity, and income to allow for a better understanding of where there are areas of inequity or disproportionality. This helps our communities focus more explicitly on addressing inequities and improving opportunity youth outcomes.

To learn more about our work in the first year of this initiative, read the report, Equity Counts: Using Data to Increase Equity and Improve Metric Outcomes for Opportunity Youth. Read the blog about the report here.

To learn more about the technical approach regarding how the measures were developed to track and analyze the opportunity youth population, read this guide from our partner Equal Measure titled, Equity Counts: Development of Common Measures.

Equal Measure also developed the report, Equity Counts: Tracking Opportunity Youth Outcomes
which introduces the set of measures—the OYF Common Measures—underscoring this initiative, the importance of creating these measures, and the challenges of this effort.

Equity Counts completed its work in 2019, and was continued by the Data For Impact Initiative.