Ask me five or six years ago what I thought of data collection to demonstrate outcomes while I was working full-time as a street nurse, and I would have told you it sounds like a complete waste of time. With some more time behind me, experience in academia, and greater connection with management level of many service providers, my perspective has changed.
I met with the Executive Director of United Way of London and Middlesex the other day, and he told me that United Way has been focusing more energy on funding projects that demonstrate outcomes, rather than those that just sound good. In order to assist agencies with this, they have provided outcome measurement tools and assisted agencies with implementing them. They have also been linking those agencies that are stretched to thin to do this with academics who might be able to help. To many who do street-level care, this may sound like added layers of bureaucracy and time taken away from ‘real’ care. However, in the long-run if it means doing the best we can with the people we work with, then the upfront work is worth it.
I think this links well to the problems we have currently with the whole system of addressing homelessness where most of the money goes to management versus prevention and rapid rehousing. Data is now showing that we are not getting the best ‘bang for our buck’ this way, and it’s time to reconfigure. I believe that we have a lot to learn from thining about impact and outcomes, and it leads to a better system over all. Evidence? The United Way is now funding the Unity Project, a traditionally under-funded shelter in London the provides low-barrier services, and therefore reaches the most vulnerable in our community. That’s what I call ‘bang for our buck’.