The Forum for Youth Investment has made “using better data and information” one of the building blocks of Ready by 21, a set of strategies focused on improving the odds that youth will be ready for college, work and life. As part of that effort, Ready Youth was launched to provide innovative ways for communities to use data to engage stakeholders and inform solutions.
Ready Youth uses data from the Gallup Student Poll, which surveys young people about three key indicators of student success: hope, engagement and well-being. The Forum and other Ready by 21 partners work with participating communities to analyze poll results in concert with other data on children and youth (e.g., information on health, education, employment and safety).
The combined data, capturing both student perceptions and community context, is used to mobilize a range of local stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, civic leaders and business people to engage in conversation about what strategies can increase young people’s success. New survey waves can then capture the efficacy of those strategies.
Indianola, Mississippi, one of the six communities participating in the Ready Youth pilot, provides a case study on the role data can play in informing effective solutions. For instance, despite a 2011 needs assessment in which 95 percent of parents said their children felt safe going to and from school, the Gallup Student Poll revealed that at least one-third of students believed that safety was a key concern. This finding prompted the high school to develop a safety strategy, which included “testing students on the code of conduct and training staff on safety protocol.”
The gap between parent and student perceptions illustrates the importance of gathering information from a variety of sources and using it to stimulate conversation about community assets and needs. Community dialogue can offer a rich opportunity to examine diverse stakeholders’ take on “the story behind the data,” including the root causes of challenges that emerge as priorities for collective action.
The example of Ready Youth shows that data is just one capacity that communities need to achieve better results for youth. For more information about collecting and analyzing data, engaging diverse stakeholders in partnerships to achieve results and identifying effective solutions check out the tools and templates on the Building Neighborhood Capacity Resource Center.