COMPREHENSIVE DATA AROUND AN ISSUE YOU ARE TRYING TO SOLVE CAN HAVE A MULTITUDE OF BENEFITS AND DIRECTLY IMPACT THE SUCCESS OF THE NEEDED SOLUTION.
When trying to address a community problem, data collection should be one of the first action items on your list. However, there are some things to keep in mind before you dive into conducting research.
When you begin planning your approach to data collection it is good to think holistically about what you are trying to uncover from your community. Although you may think you know what specifically needs to be addressed, assumptions can lead to the development of solutions that don’t fit the issue at hand. Many of us have experienced someone approaching us with a “silver bullet” to our problem without getting to know us, our background, or the problem in the first place. When all aspects of a situation are not considered properly, spoiler alert, they ultimately fail.
Speaking specifically to data collection around child care access and affordability, there are three main audiences that you should be collecting data from.
- The first and probably most obvious are the families with young children in your area. Families across our state are in the thick of it, and always have great insight into what type of care is lacking, what is important, and how finances play a part in the system.
- The second audience you should never leave out is current care providers. Current child care professionals are providing the vital care that is available and can bring a valuable perspective on running a business and caring for the young residents in your community. Licensed or registered child care should always be a priority, but you can also learn a lot from providers that aren’t licensed or registered. Unlicensed facilities provide care for families in your community and can offer great insight into state licensure, families, and children.
- The last audience you want to engage with is the business sector. Employers across the state are grappling with the inability to recruit and retain staff, which is oftentimes directly linked to affordability and/or access to child care. You can cross two hurdles with one leap when engaging employees and employers. First, you can get information on the child care needs of employees and the effect it has on their productivity. Second, you have an opportunity to gain buy-in from employers as they learn more about the role they could play in child care solutions.
Beyond where you should be getting your data from, you should also be thoughtful in what questions you are asking and how they influence the data you will obtain. Underdeveloped and biased collection plans can lead to data collection errors or the inability for participants to accurately answer questions. During this process ask yourself:
- Are our questions leading people towards what they might view as the “correct answer,” or do they remain neutral? Humans have a natural tendency to strive to be “right” rather than authentic. If there is a sense that one answer is more favorable than another, participants may lean towards the “correct” answer rather than what is true.
- Are your questions easy to understand and read? As a rule, you should always consider using common language that is no higher than a 5th grade reading level. Simplicity is always better!
- Are you collecting enough identifiable information to ensure the data is relevant and accurate? You may run into an issue with people outside of your radius participating in your data collection process. Make sure you include questions that can give you helpful information while also weeding out the errors. Some examples include questions about zip codes, family structure, and local resources.
- Am I utilizing an accessible platform? When conducting outreach to gather data, it is best to make sure you are utilizing multiple different mediums. For example, if you are conducting a survey, think about how you can offer paper and online options for individuals to access.
- The last question you should ask yourself is: How long has it been since the last data collection occurred? Valuable and relevant data is highly contingent on consistently updated data; communities are always changing. Varying recommendations exist around different types of data and when it becomes outdated, but in general we like to recommend updating data every two years at least. If you really want to have excellent data, try collecting data annually.
Data collection plans can be difficult to create and need extensive time and attention to be done properly. However, you do not have to do this alone, reach out to the MCCBC team for support around your data collection needs! Our team offers one on one technical assistance, resources, survey examples, and more depending on your community’s needs.
– Jason Nitschke, Senior Child Care Business Advisor