Using Data for Impact

Our data use initiative launched in the fall of 2018 with support from Ballmer Group and in partnership with 17 of the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions (FCS) Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) network communities.

The first phase 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 is 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.

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

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 to focus more explicitly on addressing inequities and improving opportunity youth outcomes.

“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

Based on our work this year, and a continued strong network-wide focus on using data to improve outcomes across the OYF, a new $10 million investment from the Ballmer Group was approved in 2019. Phase two Data for Impact funds will support work to further the use of data in OYF communities to over the next five years.

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.

Check back here for additional updates and resources.