Innovative Data Sharing Practices Shaping the Social Sector

Data and evaluation play a critical role in our work at Third Sector, enabling rigorous outcomes-oriented contracting. More broadly throughout the social sector, well-designed approaches can inform the implementation of policy and programs. The National Association of Welfare Research Statistics (NAWRS) 2017 Workshop highlighted communities across the country where innovative data sharing practices and evaluation methodologies are directly shaping human services and workforce programming.

Integrated data systems to understand cross-system risk factors: Allegheny County is a leader in the development and use of integrated data systems. The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Data Warehouse was created in 1999 and pulls together behavioral health, child welfare, homelessness, public schools, housing, criminal justice system, and medical examiner data, among others. By creating an integrated data system, Allegheny County has been able to answer fundamental questions, including the number of individuals reached through DHS services, to nuanced questions, such as as the most critical risk factors for opioid overdose.

Predictive analytics to inform decision-making:  In Allegheny County, the Data Warehouse provides case workers with a breadth and depth of data to inform screening decisions for child welfare referrals. To better leverage this data, the County has developed the Allegheny Family Screening Tool (AFST) which calculates a risk score based on more than 100 factors that predict future referral or placement. The tool is currently being evaluated to assess the accuracy of decisions, reduction of unwarranted variation in decision-making, positive or negative changes to racial biases at call screening, and overall referral rates and workload.

Multi-armed randomized control trial to compare effectiveness of interventions: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Abt Associates conducted the Family Options Study, a multi-armed randomized trial to compare the effectiveness of different types of housing interventions for families experiencing homelessness. The study compared permanent housing subsidy, community-based rapid re-housing, project-based transitional housing, and a control group in 12 communities across the country. Through this model, partners were able to analyze the effectiveness among different types of interventions, as well as between each intervention and the control group. Findings show positive outcomes for those who received the permanent housing subsidy across a variety of domains, including improved housing stability and a host of outcomes related to adult and child well-being and self-sufficiency measures. In comparison, families assigned to the other models, including the control group, were more likely to still be struggling significantly after 37 months. These findings suggest that future efforts for families experiencing homelessness should focus on the permanent housing subsidy program model.

Mixed-methods evaluation to assess benefits of new program: The @LIKE program was implemented in from 2012 to 2016 and served young adults ages 18 to 24 disconnected from work and school in the California counties of Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino. @LIKE is an innovative program model that includes not just case management, but also “life coaching” to help young adults develop resiliency and self-efficacy. IMPAQ International's program evaluation used a mixed-methods and quasi-experimental approach to evaluate design effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability. Overall, findings show that @LIKE improved employment, educational, and training outcomes for participants, and that these benefits exceeded the costs of program implementation.