Policy and Advocacy Starting Place: Data Analysis Capacity

Contributed by:  Noah Berger, Director of Policy Advocacy and Reform,  The Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is committed to building a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions that strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. By investing in data analysis capacity (in our KIDS COUNT Network, for example), we help those on the front lines of policy debates to craft policies that will be effective and equitable, and to build broad support for those policies. The process of developing effective solutions begins with understanding the shortcomings of existing systems. This requires careful data analysis to identify which children are not receiving support that they need, and why. To craft effective policies those questions need to be examined not only for the entire population, but also for specific demographic groups to make sure that solutions are effectively targeted and help all children to succeed – particularly those who face the greatest barriers. We have also found that while data analysis is crucial, it is most effective when part of a broader process of inquiry that also involves engaging with and listening to people whose lived experience is the reality that the data represent. Their insights and knowledge create a more vivid and accurate picture of problems to be solved and effective solutions than can be gained just by examining data. And a process of inquiry that includes many voices and perspectives can build a solid foundation for efforts to shape public will and public policy through a combination of data analysis and leadership from communities that are most directly affected by barriers to success that can be removed by effective policies. When trusted actionable data feed deep community engagement, strategic communications and thoughtful policy advocacy, the combination can play a crucial role in advancing policies and programs that help children and their families to thrive.