Introducing the TowerDATA Dashboard!

Author: Tracy Sawicki

Back in 2014, the Foundation’s Trustees and staff went through a strategic planning process. Nothing new, right?

What made this strategic plan (which we later decided to call a strategic direction) different is that we built the entire thing around a process called Results-Based Accountability (RBA). Without getting too wonky, RBA takes a page out of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and, “begin[s] with the end in mind.” That means we established conditions of well-being we wanted to see at the community level.

We went through each of our four issue areas (intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health, and substance use disorders, for anyone who’s just learning about us) and thought about what we’d like the world to look like for the young people and families who are affected by them. While what we came up with sounded nice, it was a pretty top-down process. So we decided to get advice from lots of different people — providers, beneficiaries, parents, kids–and based on what we heard from the focus groups, we adjusted (and sometimes eliminated or completely changed) our goals to match.

Ultimately, we ended up with a mere 19 goals? We then turned our attention to how to measure these conditions of “well-being” in the communities where we do our work.

Enter: Wilder Research.

We commissioned Wilder Research to help us figure out what data were out there that might relate to our goals, identify where we might have to go out and get our own data, and then help us collect, compile, and report on it all. This was not a speedy process.

We’ve been working on this for a couple of years, including sending out surveys to young people with intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities, their parents, and community members at large. Coupled with what information we were able to compile from existing sources, these surveys gave us valuable information about how the people living in the communities we serve feel about and live with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health, and/or substance use disorders.

These data live in the TowerDATA Dashboard. If you reside in one of the six counties the Foundation works in, we hope you’ll spend some time exploring the data and learning how your community fares on these measures. If you work in one of these fields, we hope these data help tell a story that advances your work. If you make policy or regulate agencies working in these fields, we hope these data will give you some insight into how your work affects people on the ground. The big thing to remember is that we’re not trying to take the credit when things change for the better, but we’re also not taking the blame if things change for the worse. In either case, we’ll be asking ourselves what we can do to make things better or even better.