Evaluation and Improvement

At the heart of CQI is gathering and analyzing information and data about the program or intervention you’re evaluating. This analysis can help you understand the effectiveness of what you’re doing and how you can maintain and improve that effectiveness. A CQI environment is one in which data is collected and used to make positive changes—even when things are going well—rather than waiting for something to go wrong and then fixing it.[10]

A comic showing one stick figure saying to others, 'Show me your data.' The other stick figures respond 'Data?' 'What data?'

Source: FRIENDS National Resource Center (2015). Evaluation 101: What and Why. Data in the Real World: Planning, Implementing, and Learning from Evaluation [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from PPT presentation in N.J. Not currently on Website.

More and more innovators and agents for change are recognizing the importance of data when trying to solve messy, complex problems. At the same time, access to data, along with the number of collection methods and tools, continues to grow at a staggering pace. We all use data in our everyday decisionmaking in one way or another, so the question is how we can better use these data to create meaningful change.

Data can supplement intuition with new perspectives and information to help confirm a problem exists, discover new aspects of a problem, advocate for a problem to be solved, and surface and vet potential solutions. Decisionmaking can be more strategic when supported with high-quality data that help state leaders direct resources to where the greatest impact is possible.

You don’t need to be a full-fledged evaluator or researcher to use data in decisionmaking. Using a CQI process, asking the right questions, being thoughtful about the data-gathering process, and acting on the answers are all powerful tools for catalyzing change. There are resources and guides to walk you through how to ask the right questions and find answers, interpret and present your data, and—finally—apply what you’ve learned.

Once you’ve gained knowledge by collecting and analyzing information, it’s time to start the process again. Use what you’ve learned to continue to evaluate what you do by collecting and analyzing data, and continually improve your program. For more information, see the Resources section on CQI and data toolkits.[11]


[10] FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention. (n.d.). FRIENDS evaluation toolkit. Retrieved from http://friendsnrc.org/evaluation-toolkit.

[11] Spark Policy Institute (n.d.). Tools for social innovators [Web page]. Retrieved from https://sparkinsight.com/toolkit/.