This post is part of our Behind the Scenes @PCYI_Org series. This series gives us an opportunity to share news about the various projects we’re working on, but it’s also a chance for you to learn more about us and to ask questions and make suggestions to help improve the quality of our work. Today our post is courtesy of our Researcher, Heather.
Hi. I’m Heather and I’m part of the research team here at PCYI. I am a data geek. At one of the first staff meetings I attended at PCYI I was enthusiastically sharing some graphs I had made with some of our new Enrolled by Six data and Graham commented that he had never before heard anyone refer to a statistical plot as “sexy.” My main jobs with the PCYI team are to help with the gathering of high quality data, analyzing that data in ways that can answer questions that really mean something to the children and young people of Peel and the people who are working with them, and then figure out ways to make sense of the results in the context of our community. As boring as data and math may seem to some other people, I think it’s one of the most fun and most important things to do.
We can use really high quality data to answer questions that might have seemed impossible to even ask previously. We can use empirical evidence to look into which programs and services are actually helping the most number of children and sometimes we can even figure out why. During times when budgets are not always as large as we would like them to be, having confidence in your decision of how to spend those precious dollars to most effectively meet your organization’s mandate is essential. And good data used correctly can answer these types of questions.
One of the data projects here at PCYI that I am most excited about is our conversations around data sharing. Data sharing happens when several organizations take pieces of data they have gathered and combine them to create a broader and more powerful database. These shared datasets can help us explore patterns and trends in children’s lives in the fullness of the complex world in which they live. Instead of simply looking at a few physical aspects of a child in a siloed database, in a shared database we can potentially look at the intersection of certain physical aspects, family changes, educational influences and specific program delivery. It allows for a much more holistic and realistic view of the trends and processes our children are actually experiencing. Modern technology allows use to do this with ease and accuracy and with the full maintenance of data privacy.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about the concept of data sharing is that as a statistical consultant, I regularly work on projects that involve youth and children around the world. At the moment, in addition to my work here in Peel, I am working with youth in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and the Southern US. Each of these projects is focusing on different aspects of the children and youth – some on their physical health, some of their economic empowerment, some on their social safety. But what I can see is that certain measures and trends are important across all dimensions of childhood and across all cultures. If we could inspire many nonprofit organizations to share data in the way we are beginning to explore in Peel, we could effectively and efficiently work together to improve lives across the globe.
Heather Krause is a professionally trained statistician with years of working on complex research problems for nonprofit and NGO organizations. She has a strong love of finding data, analyzing it in creative ways and using cutting edge visualization methods to visualize the results. Her emphasis is on combining strong statistical analysis with clear and meaningful communication. Heather is a unique researcher in that her interest in people and her passion for communicating research methodology and results in plain language make her an ideal consultant. She makes research comprehensible and exciting for those without formal research training. People in not-for-profit organizations who work with her discover that evaluation is exciting and manageable. They begin fearful and end up empowered and confident as they realize the power of outcome-focused research anchored in strong statistical and methodological approaches