Choose the Right Tools
The most detailed map in the world will not be very helpful if the details don’t tell you what you need to know. Consider kayaking through the broken group islands (gorgeous!) – if you grabbed an area map from the local gas station – you’d be in big trouble as you try to navigate between Dodd and Turtle islands amidst all the rocks in the middle during a turning tide. On the other hand if you had a nautical chart, chances are you’ll be safe in a kayak but get lost on the car ride home.
Consider the plethora of choices in choosing maps and charts. Knowing what you are going to do with any kind of data and information is half the battle – are you driving, hiking, boating, star gazing or drilling for oil?
Community builders have told us that they want to increase their knowledge and skills around using data for community planning. So we asked, “how do you typically use information?”
Their responses described using data to:
- Make decisions about program priorities and project directions
- Write funding applications (justifying the “ask”)
- See trends – and understand how the context in which we work changes
- Create an advocacy arsenal in order to effect change with policy makers
- Inform best practices
- Spark new relationships through engagement
- Celebrate success
Each use is different. Not every piece of information you unearth will be applicable for every purpose.
If information is causing you to be dazed and confused, do a double check. Check your sources. Is it enough? Sometimes it is a matter of adding additional information to create the whole picture. Is the information relevant? Other times, you need to be honest and not force a piece of data into a puzzle it doesn’t belong in.
Be clear from the start – what are you hoping to do with what you learn?