We are all living in uncertain times. The current situation is chaotic, and no one knows what this means for our organizations and the communities we serve. Existing organizational models have been disrupted, and we need a way to navigate through this.
At ResultsLab, we are great believers in turning data into action. We strive to put tools in the hands of nonprofit leaders who need information quickly. Which is why in March of this year, when the reality of COVID-19 swept our communities, we knew that rapid, data-driven decisions were exactly what nonprofits were going to need.
Many leaders and organizations may harbor some doubts. Some feel they don’t need the data right now and have enough anecdotes in mind to run with. Others wonder if they will be able to use the data effectively, or will it become more of a burden? But it may be reassuring to learn that real-world organizational problems are being addressed by data-driven decisions. Colorado Homebuilding Academy is one organization that is deploying that approach effectively.
Colorado Home Building Academy is an industry-driven academy created to solve the construction industry’s need for skilled workers and to support individuals in creating a meaningful career. Through their hands-on, innovative and collaborative approach, they have been helping build a talent-rich construction workforce.
When COVID-19 broke out in Colorado in early March, there was an abrupt shock and mad scramble to figure out how to continue to run as an organization and maintain their programs. Colorado Homebuilding Academy couldn’t deliver their regular programs, which are very hands-on, providing the classroom space, equipment and content for students to apply this learning while building. How do you teach someone to use a miter saw online? How do you host a construction program online without tools?
Additionally, new needs were emerging within the community they served. The booming construction industry suddenly was faced with a new reality. Job issues immediately became apparent, but other concerns around housing, access to basic supplies, and financial concerns were being expressed by the academy’s students and graduates as well.
Colorado Homebuilding Academy wanted to find solutions for their students and graduates, but they didn’t want to build these solutions based off of what the organization believed would solve their needs. They wanted a way to get feedback from them before making any critical decisions.
This is when the Rapid Needs Assessment became critical for Colorado Homebuilding Academy. Having an assessment tool that was already built, and ready to be distributed allowed them to quickly collect data on the needs of their community. “This was our guidepost and made the work so much easier,” says Roberto Hernández, Systems and Operations Manager.
The real success was Colorado Homebuilding Academy’s ability to then use this data and turn it into action. Their team used the Rapid Solutions Design matrix to guide their discussion around what solutions were feasible and had high impact, and focus their efforts on the top three to four issues. For example, one of the solutions that came out of this exercise was starting to offer one-on-one virtual tutoring connects between their students and grads to further advance their students skills and build a network of support. Colorado Homebuilding Academy also had their first virtual job fair, which was another solution they came up with and plan to continue hosting.
Roberto shared how it was easy to brainstorm, but the Rapid Solutions Design tool helped put the ideas into a workable format. Testimonials or quotes wouldn’t have been enough influence for the team to mobilize. The data was a critical piece for the organization to be able to pivot in response to their community’s needs. In his words, “you’re just compelled to act.”
Colorado Home Building Academy, who graciously shared their experience, also shared some advice on how others can mobilize their organizations to pivot.
How to mobilize your organization to pivot
- Create a taskforce. It doesn’t have to be a large group, even two or three people will work, but having other advocates for the project and bringing together multiple perspectives enhance the chances for success.
- Gather data. Listen to your community and don’t make decisions based on your beliefs or assumptions. Use the Rapid Needs Assessment (free tool) or an assessment tool your organization has created. When distributing the tool for responses, if you can, use SMS. If you start with email, be sure to follow-up with a text.
- Turn data into action. Brainstorm ideas and categorize them using the Rapid Solutions Design To start, focus your efforts on the highest feasible and highest impact solutions.
- Let participants know you heard them and communicate that you are acting on it. Ensure they know what actions you are taking so they know their input is being .
If you are looking for more resources to help make data-informed decisions to keep your organization moving forward, watch for our upcoming course through the Impact Hub. In the course you will have the opportunity to engage in a guided process to activate data informed decision making within your organization.