The words ‘data collection’ likely conjure up a whole range of images and ideas. For me, I think of camping out in a national park, armed with a clip board, Dictaphone, and binoculars — stealthily watching for some rare breed of animal to make an appearance- and then recording said appearance with a tick, an asterisk or carefully crafted voice entry (didn’t bring the Dictaphone for nothing).
Sadly, I’ve not had much opportunity to apply my wildlife data collection techniques in the past. Instead, it’s been lots of surveys, interviews, focus groups, or trawling through existing records, documents and registries. Each method has benefits and challenges, and is more useful under certain conditions than others.
If you’re working in a platform or a partnership, working out how to gather information on your selected indicators is a particularly important step (and there’s more to it than launching a survey). Implementation plans for continuous learning and evaluation provide clarity around what will be needed to gather information, analyse and understand that information, and evolve a learning approach. It’s unlikely that all the data you require for addressing your indicators, will be available or accessible in the first instance — which means starting with what is available, makes good sense. Gathering data that are available (and understanding their limitations and bias), developing case studies that bring concepts to life, generating an initial ‘product’ using these data, and encouraging early reflections, are all important steps in promoting the value of continuous learning for your platform or partnership.
If you’re thinking about gathering information on your MSP, who is in it, what it’s doing, or the results it is achieving, here are three options to get you going:
- Review past learning and evaluation work: as part of designing a continuous learning and evaluation approach, it’s useful to consider what work your MSP has completed in the past. A review can help identify past priorities, unmet needs and areas of interest, which can provide important starting points for future work.
- Increase interest and appetite through an initial ‘product’: a tangible and visible product is a useful way for bringing continuous learning to life. Products may be many and varied, including reports, briefs, videos, presentations, papers, or social media stories. For incentivising interest in continuous learning and evaluation, consider if there is an interesting story or angle, what data you have available, and what near-term opportunities exist for sharing the work of the MSP.
- Develop an Implementation Plan: an implementation plan provides a practical complement to strategic documentation for the MSP. An implementation plan for continuous learning and evaluation in your MSP will include the key steps and materials needed for getting your learning system up and running. Often it will describe resources required, roles and responsibilities, data collection tools and schedules, data analysis plans, and a reporting or communications plan.