Data-Informed Decision-Making

quote1 What you see all around our organization is something we call our accountability pathway. We constantly ask our staff, ‘Are you making it happen, or are you hoping and wishing?’quote1 –Sam Cobbs

Following are some of the best materials we have found on data-informed decision-making. If you have additional materials to suggest, please let us know.

Mario Morino’s Leap of Reason

Elliot Harmon, February 3, 2012
Elliot Harmon of Tech Soup reviews Leap of Reason and gets some additional insight from author Mario Morino on why he wrote the book.

When a Pulitzer’s Not the Goal: How the Sandler Foundation Defines Success for ProPublica

Susan Wolf Ditkoff, GiveSmart, August 11, 2011
Susan Wolf Ditkoff of Bridgespan says Leap of Reason is “wise and highly readable.”

Developing a Master Data Sharing Agreement: Seeking Student-Level Evidence to Support a Collaborative Community Effort in Education

Carlson, Neil E. et al, Foundation Review, December, 1, 2011
This article in the Foundation Review cites Leap of Reason as “eloquently and forcefully argu[ing] for the need of nonprofits and its philanthropic community to embrace a management to outcomes framework.”

The New Measures for Improving Nonprofit Performance

Julia Hanna, Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, December 14, 2011
Mario Morino and Professor Alnoor S. Ebrahim discuss nonprofit outcomes management on Harvard Business School’s “Working Knowledge.”

Can Government Play Moneyball?

Orszag, Peter and John Bridgeland, The Atlantic, June 19, 2013
The Atlantic article “Can Government Play Moneyball?” is a home run for the performance movement.

Managing outcomes requires a leap of reason

Denise McMahan, CausePlanet blog, July 13, 2012
Denise McMahan of Cause Planet interviews Mario Morino about how measurement is only one small part of taking the “leap of reason.”

When Good Isn’t Good Enough

Bill Shore, Darell Hammond, and Amy Celep, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2013
An instructive account of the parallel journeys of Share Our Strength and KaBOOM! toward system-level impact, which we’ve watched with admiration over the years.

Finding Out What Matters for Youth: Testing Key Links in a Community Action Framework for Youth Development

Michelle Gambone, Adena Klem, and James Connell, Hamilton, NJ: Youth Development Strategies, 2002
A study on how “to help focus programming for youth on what will make the most difference in increasing the number who fare well in development throughout their adolescence and thrive as adults, and in decreasing the number who struggle in making the transition to adulthood.”

Positive Indicators of Child Well-Being: A Conceptual Framework, Measures and Methodological Issues

Lippman, Laura, Kristin Anderson Moore, and Hugh McIntosh, Innocenti Working Paper, October 2009
“This paper highlights a number of frameworks for positive indicator development which examine the positive well-being of children.”

Promise Neighborhoods Research Consortium: What Works

National Institute on Drug Abuse, Promise Neighborhoods Research Consortium
“Research shows that it is possible for neighborhoods and communities to help every young person become a successful, productive, and caring adult.” Promise Neighborhoods outlines how this is done through Outcomes and Influences, Evidence-Based Kernels, Policies, Programs, Child Brain Development and Inventory of Current Supports for Successful Youth Development.

Measuring What Matters in Nonprofits

Sawhill, John, and David Williamson, McKinsey Quarterly, May 2001
“This McKinsey Quarterly piece argues that every nonprofit organization should measure its progress in fulfilling its mission, its success in mobilizing its resources, and its staff’s effectiveness on the job.”

Online Resources for Identifying Evidence-Based, Out-of-School Time Programs: A User’s Guide

Terzian et al., Child Trends Research Briefs
“Assists funders, administrators, and practitioners in identifying and navigating online resources to find evidence-based programs that may be appropriate for their target populations and communities.”

Outcomes and Effective Practices Portal

Urban Institute, Child Trends, and Social Solutions. Winter 2011
“The Outcomes and Effective Practices Portal (OEPP) is a collaborative effort initiated by Urban Institute, Child Trends, and Social Solutions. The OEPP provides practical knowledge that nonprofit professionals can use to manage their day-to-day performance. Information in the OEPP leverages research-based findings that have been synthesized and simplified by experts in the field.”

What Do We Measure and Why? Questions about the Uses of Measurement

Wheatley, Margaret, and Myron Kellner-Rogers, Journal for Strategic Performance Measurement, June 1999
“Everyone knows that “you can only manage what you can measure.” The work of modern managers is to interpret and manipulate these numeric views of reality. The desire to be good managers has compelled many people to become earnest students of measurement. But are measures and numbers the right pursuit? Do the right measures make for better managers? Do they make for stellar organizations?”

The Performance Management Revolution: Business Results Through Insight and Action

Dresner, Howard. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008
The Performance Management Revolution shows you how your business can get prepared for the future—transforming strategies into plans, plans into actions, and actions into results. … This visionary book provides an intelligent framework toward the path to better performance through insight and action.”

Performance Measurement: Getting Results, Second Edition

Hatry, Harry P., Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 2006
This book “covers every component of the performance measurement process, from identifying the program’s mission, objectives, customers, and trackable outcomes to finding the best indicators for each outcome, the sources of data, and how to collect them. Hatry explains how to select indicator breakouts and benchmarks for comparison to actual values, and describes numerous uses for performance information.”

Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App

Howson, Cindi, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008
“Written by industry analyst and BI consultant Cindi Howson, Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App reveals how to get the most value out of your BI investments. The book draws on exclusive survey data and real-world case studies of BI success stories at Continental Airlines, The Dow Chemical Company, Corporate Express, 1-800 CONTACTS, and other companies to identify proven BI best practices you can put to use in your organization.”

ICMA Performance Measurement KnowledgeNetwork

ICMA (International City/County Management Association)
“Committed to fostering excellence and innovation in local government, the Knowledge Network is an online community for local government professionals built on the following ideals: Rich Content, Social Networking and Knowledge Exchange, Partnering, and Global Scope.”

Making Results-Based State Government Work 

Liner, Blaine, Harry P. Hatry, Elisa Vinson, Ryan Allen, Pat Dusenbury, Scott Bryant, and Ron Snell, Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2001
“A compilation of findings about the state of the art and the practive of governing-for-results.”

“Putting Data to Work: Interim Recommendations from the Benchmarking Project”

Miles, Marty, Sheila Maguire, Stacy Woodruff-Bolte, and Carol Clymer, Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures, 2010
A report on the interim findings of The Benchmarking Project including challenges identified and key recommendations.

The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox: A Complete Guide to Program Effectiveness, Performance Measurement, and Results

Penna, Robert M., Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011
“The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox identifies stages in the use of outcomes and shows you how to use specific facets of existing outcome models to improve performance and achieve meaningful results.”

Smart (Enough) Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions

Taylor, James, and Neil Raden, Harlow, England: Prentice Hall, 2007
“James and Neil show how current business trends are forcing organizations to build smarter systems and how these systems can help companies thrive. By focusing on decisions as distinct opportunities for improvement, the book provides unique perspective on how using established technologies in a new way can solve problems and create competitive advantage.”

Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach

United Way of America, Alexandria, VA: United Way of America, 1996
One of “the most widely used measurement guide in the United States. This manual promotes the use of logic models to clarify and communicate outcomes.”

Performance Management and Evaluation: What’s the Difference?

Walker, Karen E., and Kristin Anderson Moore. Child Trends, January 2011
“This brief provides information on performance management—the ongoing process of collecting and analyzing information to monitor program performance—and its relationship to other forms of evaluation.”

Evaluation Matters: Lessons from Youth-Serving Organizations

Winkler, Mary K., Brett Theodos, and Michel Gross, Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2009
“…this reports shows, the technical assistance provided by the Urban Institute helped the nonprofits measure and, in come cases, improve their performance; and more importantly, we believe, illuminated underlying challenges in nonprofits’ efforts to systematically measure and communicate their contributions on behalf of clients served and to the larger community.”

Building a Performance Measurement System: Using Data to Accelerate Social Impact

Wolk, Andrew, Anand Dholakia, and Kelley Kreitz, Cambridge, MA: Root Cause, 2009
“If your organization is dedicated to social impact, you know how challenging it can be to evaluate progress on achieving your mission. A performance measurement system can provide your organization with the internal knowledge necessary to help you accelerate your organization s social impact, in addition to generating performance data that is increasingly required by funders.”

Center for Effective Philanthropy Assessment Tools

Center for Effective Philanthropy
“Assessing your foundation’s effectiveness can be inherently challenging, because there is no single measure of impact or effectiveness. For foundation leaders who wish to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement, CEP’s assessment tools provide actionable insights into your work with and influence on key stakeholders, including applicants,granteesdonors, and staff.”

Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool (OCAT)

Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofits, Washington, DC: Venture Philanthropy Partners, prepared by McKinsey & Company, 2001
The OCAT Tool measures operational capacity and identifies areas which need improvement. More than 70 organizations have requested permission to modify or replicate the tool, post it on their websites, or distribute it among their own grantees. It’s been cited in more than 20 books and college courses and is accessed online around 1200 times monthly.

Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits

Bradach, Jeffrey, Thomas Tierney, and Nan Stone, Harvard Business Review, December 2008
“Ending violence in inner-city communities, educating disadvantaged children, stemming the loss of rain forests or marine wildlife—U.S. nonprofits are being asked to take on an increasing share of society’s most important and difficult work. At the same time, the expectations being placed on these organizations to show results—by their staff members, their boards, and public and private donors—are rising. How are nonprofits responding? By being much more explicit about the results they intend to deliver and the strategies and organizations they’ll create to achieve those outcomes.”

What Is the Bottom Line When There Is No ‘Bottom Line’?”

Drucker, Peter F., In Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Practices and Principles: Including Interviews with Frances Hesselbein [et al.], New York: HarperCollins, 1990. 107-–112
“The nonprofit sector is growing rapidly, creating a major need for expert advice on how to manage these organizations effectively. Management legend Peter Drucker provides excellent examples and explanations of mission, leadership, resources, marketing, goals, and much more. Interviews with nine experts also address key issues in this booming sector.”

More Bang for the Buck

Neuhoff, Alex, and Bob Searle, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2008
“Scores of pundits have written books, research reports, and articles about how business leaders extracted greater productivity from their companies. Yet few have paid attention to this topic in the nonprofit sector. Recognizing that increasing productivity could be a powerful way for nonprofit organizations to multiply the impact of their work, the authors explore how three nonprofits succeeded in reducing costs without sacrificing the quality of their services.”

Outcome Indicators Project

Urban Institute and Center for What Works
“The Outcome Indicators Project provides a framework for tracking nonprofit performance. It suggests candidate outcomes and outcome indicators to assist nonprofit organizations that seek to develop new outcome monitoring processes or improve their existing systems.”

Managing Outcomes Helps a Children’s Hospital Climb in Renown

Abelson, Reed, New York Times, September 15, 2007
An account of how managing to outcomes helped Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center become a nationally renowned pediatric medicine center.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath, New York: Broadway Books, 2010
“Research in psychology has revealed that our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases and irrationalities: We’re overconfident. We seek out information that supports us and downplay information that doesn’t. We get distracted by short-term emotions. When it comes to making choices, it seems, our brains are flawed instruments. Unfortunately, merely being aware of these shortcomings doesn’t fix the problem, any more than knowing that we are nearsighted helps us to see. The real question is: How can we do better?”

Great Valley Center: A Case Study in Measuring for Mission

Howard, Don, and Susan Colby, Boston: Bridgespan, 2003
” ‘What gets measured gets managed.’ This old adage applies to nonprofits, too, and it may explain why performance measurement is becoming more prevalent in the nonprofit sector.”

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Leap for Consultants and Providers

Management consultants, planners, executive coaches, evaluators, software and services firms, and other providers will find the suite of Leap of Reason materials and its message of high performance relevant to their market education, consultative sell, delivery of services, and client support efforts for their nonprofit and public sector clients.

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Leap for Government

Leap of Reason, although initially directed at and written for nonprofit organizations, is equally applicable to the challenges facing federal, state and municipal government agencies as they seek to do more with less and improve the social impact of their efforts through their own services or those done through grant and contract programs. As federal agencies incorporate the Executive Branch’s directive to include information about how they plan to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs and link their disbursements to evidence, the materials have even greater relevance.

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Leap for Nonprofits

The suite of Leap of Reason materials provides informative and provocative material that helps nonprofit boards, management, and staff 1) better understand and start to prepare for the forces changing the social sector; 2) facilitate board and/or staff planning sessions; 3) contribute to leadership and professional staff development, and 4) take important steps toward becoming a high-performance organization.

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Leap for Boards

Leap for Boards provides informative and provocative material for boards and leadership teams. While the package is useful on an individual basis, it directed at organizations and helping them prepare for and sharpen the focus of board retreats, strategic planning efforts, visioning sessions, and even self-assessment or introspection exercises.

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The Next Leap

Chairman's Corner - January 2013 - VPPNews
Mario Morino announces the release of Working Hard--and Working Well, and provides background on the author, David E.K. Hunter.