Strategies to Promote the Implementation of a Statewide Data Collection Tool for North Carolina's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Agencies: A Project for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
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As a longtime supporter of domestic violence and sexual assault service providers in North Carolina, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) has worked to strengthen the field’s provision of services, its operational capacity, its identification of sustainable funding sources, its articulation of policy priorities, and the development of outcomes assessment tools. With regard to the latter, ZSR has devoted specific attention to the development of data-driven strategies to reduce rates of domestic violence and sexual assault.
This project analyzes the development of a new statewide data collection tool for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in North Carolina. Given that the utilization of domestic violence and sexual assault services is growing annually, the development of a tool to effectively track service outcomes is timely and relevant.
A data collection tool has both short-term and long-term benefits. In the short-term, it has the potential to dramatically ease the reporting process for agencies, while also synchronizing what gets reported. Better reporting mechanisms also increase opportunities for funding and strengthen an agency’s ability to advocate for more resources to support their services. ZSR’s particular focus is on the tool’s long-term benefit of providing North Carolina with a set of aggregate, statewide data that will facilitate the evaluation of what interventions and services have the greatest impact on reducing rates of violence.
Because the successful implementation of a statewide, victim-level data collection tool is contingent upon full participation by the state’s victim service agencies, their voice and perspective is essential. Therefore, the majority of my data come from interviews conducted with 17 agencies throughout the state that offer domestic violence and/or sexual assault support services. My interviews attempt to gauge how agencies currently use data, their perception of the new data collection tool, and how funders can assist agencies with data collection. I have complemented my agency interview findings with interviews with additional key stakeholders and two surveys developed by the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence to assess organizational data collection capacity.
My research shows that the use of electronic data collection is increasingly the norm among agencies. However, agencies had varied levels of satisfaction with their tools and frequently expressed a desire for the resources, training, and time to adopt a better system. Agencies consistently recognized the utility of data and frequently used the data they collected for activities other than reporting to funders. In particular, agencies use data to track trends, modify their services to better serve their client populations, and demonstrate the need for their services to the broader community.
Agencies were generally aware of the new data collection tool, but knew little about it. Several agencies expressed excitement about the tool, but interviewees also raised several concerns about it. In particular, the most notable concerns about the new tool pertained to training costs, its level of technicality, its ability to meet agency needs, its overall affordability, and its long-term relevance.
My report also includes three case studies from other states that have adopted some form of a statewide data collection tool for their domestic violence and sexual assault agencies: Oklahoma, Illinois, and Alaska. There are several salient lessons that emerge from these case studies. In particular, Illinois illustrates the importance of promoting agency buy-in and participation through the use of accessible technical assistance, agency data ownership, and trainings for agencies on how to use data collection for activities other than reporting. Additionally, all three states demonstrate how funders can convey the message that data is important through active involvement in tool development, but also by mandating that agencies use the tool or a tool with comparable capabilities in order to receive funding.
These case studies also offer lessons learned and on-going challenges that North Carolina should take note of. In particular, strong investments in on-going technical support are critical. These investments should include the training or hiring of staff who are capable of working directly with the data collection software and can make any necessary modifications themselves. Further, agencies should have easy access to support should they run into a glitch with the system and have easy recourse to modifying the tool in order to maximize its utility.
ZSR has consistently provided critical funding to the field of domestic violence and sexual assault services in North Carolina, as well as endeavored to advance the field by convening stakeholders, commissioning research, and challenging stakeholders to pursue strategies that have the greatest impact. Therefore, ZSR is uniquely poised to engage both other funders and victim service agencies on ways to ensure the effective implementation of this tool and encourage providers to move towards more evidence-based programming.
This report concludes with the following recommendations:
- Work with the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and public funders to increase marketing and communication about the data collection tool.
- Convene funders to come to consensus on synchronizing funding requests and ensuring that current data requests yield meaningful output.
- Provide financial assistance for a broad range of training.
- Invest in technical assistance. In particular, hire regionally based, technical staff persons to assist agencies with the data collection process and act as a direct liaison with Osnium.
- Hire an outside project manager to oversee the continued development and implementation of the data collection tool.
Wexler, Emily (2011). Strategies to Promote the Implementation of a Statewide Data Collection Tool for North Carolina's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Agencies: A Project for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/3569.
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