Our Community Innovation Lab runner up at social impact measurement awards

Posted on 16 Dec 2020

By Stefanie Ball

The Our Community Innovation Lab has been awarded runner up at the 2020 SIMNA Awards for a data collaboration with TaskForce Community Agency, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit organisation that provides wraparound support for people facing serious disadvantage.

Data scientist at Our Community and project lead on the collaboration, Nathan Mifsud said that receiving the award in the Outstanding Collaboration in Social Impact Measurement category highlights the potential to use data science to help identify service gaps and make better strategic decisions.

“Our collaboration with TaskForce reflected an increasing focus on data-informed decision making throughout the social sector, and the awards are a valuable way to surface such efforts. It was a fruitful project where we supplemented TaskForce’s clinical expertise with our data science expertise,” he said.

The collaboration involved an analysis of TaskForce’s drug and alcohol service data, including client demographics and program use. Project outcomes included identifying service provision gaps that will enable TaskForce to better serve its clients.

“The analysis quantified a shift to telephone consultations as a result of COVID-19, particularly among youth,” said Dr Mifsud. TaskForce has since launched a new Telehealth program to meet this demand.

Another key finding was a difference between the way men and women reported on outcome measures during their participation in TaskForce’s drug and alcohol programs. These types of correlational analyses look for relationships in the data (beyond the counting of outputs) and can be helpful in understanding if a shift is occurring, and if a similar shift is experienced across different client groups.

Lessons learned from the collaboration fed into the development of Data Projects from Go to Whoa!, a 15-step guide for scoping and delivering successful data projects including templates, help sheets and other useful resources such as case studies.

“The main objective for us was to build experience scoping and delivering successful data projects and to widely share our lessons. We were also able to show that even ‘small data’ – a few hundred clients reporting over 18 months – can provide useful insights,” said Dr Mifsud.

Manager of SVA Consulting and sponsor of the collaboration category, Anna Anderson said that the Our Community and TaskForce collaboration was “a shining example of bringing two organisations together with very different skill sets.”

The collaboration was made possible through a grant awarded from Equity Trustees. Former head of strategy at TaskForce, Mike Davis told Pro Bono Australia that they were lucky to work in collaboration with Our Community, and that the social sector “needs more initiatives” to help build data capacity and capability.

“[The work] would generally be inaccessible and unaffordable for TaskForce,” he said.

Not-for-profit organisations that measure and track outcomes and program impact are in better stead to deliver evidence-based programs that work and more effectively serve beneficiaries.

The Our Community Innovation Lab provides free and low-cost resources and tools for not-for-profit organisations to help them become more data driven. The team have produced a framework to help identify the types of data that not-for-profit organisations most often work with and what can be done with that data. They also deliver low-cost tutorials and run events and meetups for people working with data.

The Social Impact Measurement Network Australia (SIMNA) Awards recognise work being done across Australia to evidence social change. The virtual ceremony was held on Wednesday, 2 December 2020. View all the finalists here.

MORE INFO: SIMNA have produced a series of webinars about social impact measurement for not-for-profits. Watch them here. | Learn more about the results of the collaboration in the final report here, or download the TaskForce Annual Report here. | Data Projects from Go to Whoa!