Becoming a data-driven learning organization
Covenant House launched a federation-wide initiative to design and implement a cutting-edge, data-informed strategy to help even more of our kids achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes.
We set out to become an international movement that uses data as a tool to drive programmatic decision-making. Most importantly, we could use this crucial information to find out which services were working for our kids and which were not.
To accomplish this, we have begun creating, analyzing and leveraging the largest single dataset on homeless and trafficked youth ever across our work in six countries. This data also offers other interested stakeholders – service providers, researchers, advocates, policy makers and funders – an archive that can inform future decision-making to reshape the vital work of engaging disconnected youth and supporting their development.
In support of these strategies, CHI spearheaded the federation-wide development and implementation of a robust data management platform, utilizing Social Solutions' Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) software. Covenant House's ETO team facilitated an intensive implementation process, soliciting input from program sites, supporting locally customized database construction and providing hands-on training to staff at all levels. Our international platform allows Covenant House to monitor program activity and performance across sites and conduct comparative analyses to inform learning.
Our innovative way forward
With a focus on our core outcomes and the technology in place to support a comprehensive evaluation framework, Covenant House's Strategic Plan now outlines a series of strategies and objectives:
- Improving data quality – Covenant House views data integrity as a prerequisite for effective performance measurement and program improvement; and in order to promote and standardize data quality, we continue to partner with each of our sites to ensure that we are collecting consistent, accurate and reliable program data.
Covenant House facilitates on-site and virtual training aimed at documenting and instilling best data practices. Ultimately, our aim is to build capacity and competencies to implement and adopt a meaningful, federation-wide data quality assurance system.
- Measuring performance and enhancing outcomes – Covenant House is also building and refining methodologies that employ real-time analytic tools to gauge progress toward benchmarks, inform daily operations and strategic initiatives, create feedback loops for staff at all levels, comply with funder reporting requirements, and support quantitative (e.g., statistical analyses) and qualitative (e.g., peer-led site reviews) approaches to understanding homeless youth, their needs and how to best serve them.
With a data-informed understanding of program performance and outcome achievement, Covenant House will be in a position to help each site assess the quality and effectiveness of its programs – and explore opportunities for enhancement.
- Identifying and sharing best practices – Covenant House also seeks to grow a shared understanding of the program and practice models (including those used by Covenant House sites and other evidence-informed practices) that most effectively help homeless youth achieve success. We actively create and facilitate shared learning opportunities across the federation through monthly conference calls, international leadership retreats, and internal documentation and dissemination. We seek input from leaders across the federation to help identify current best practices and publish a detailed site-by-site program inventory. These efforts promote greater collective understanding of Covenant House program models and will encourage more peer-to-peer learning across programs.
We are also intently focused on aligning the tenets and core practices of positive youth development, resiliency theory and trauma-informed care with our mission and five principles. To this end, we have enlisted the guidance and expertise of Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, one of the country's top experts on fostering youth resilience and implementing trauma-informed strategies. Dr. Ginsburg, who oversees medical services at Covenant House Pennsylvania, has assumed a formal federation-wide coaching role for Covenant House, and has begun providing intensive, on-site training with our respective sites.
- Strategic research and knowledge generation – Drawing from our depth of experience, scale of international services and research acumen, we will engage in internal and external collaborative efforts, including program evaluation work, that aim to generate knowledge and issue awareness, inform best practices, and support an advocacy and policy agenda that will benefit homeless youth around the world.
To kick off this work, we began a multicity study of human trafficking prevalence among our youth in 2015. In partnership with the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University New Orleans and the Field Center for Children's Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, we have collected the largest-ever data set on the trafficking and exploitation experiences of homeless young people. Click here to learn more about this groundbreaking research.
Our commitment to quality
This work will positively impact Covenant House’s programs across the network, and thus help to improve both outcomes and service quality the homeless and trafficked youth we serve. These strategies will not only strengthen Covenant House’s existing operations, but will also provide a model for future Covenant House sites as well as for other homeless service providers across the globe