Lean Data in Action

Hi everyone! I’m back to follow up on my November 2nd post about lean data. Today I’ll be interviewing two rockstars in the field of evaluation – Christa Perfit, Senior Manager of Monitoring + Evaluation at City Harvest (CH), and Nate Mandel, Program Innovation Manager at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) – as they bring lean data to life through a Q&A about the innovation taking place at their organizations. 

Q: A lean data approach is about asking questions that have direct implications for programming. What were your questions when you started the project?

Christa: We do a lot of community programming around food access. One example is the Staten Island Neighborhood Food Initiative (SINFI), a project supported by CH that works in low-income neighborhoods that some might consider ‘food deserts’. In response, SINFI works to raise up local stores selling fresh, healthy food at affordable prices. We sought simple feedback: does this community enjoy trying new foods?

Nate: At CEO, we provide comprehensive employment services to formerly incarcerated individuals. In recent years, we have sought feedback about our services in order to respond to the needs of our participants and to utilize their feedback to inform the design of our programming and operations.

Q: What technology did you utilize to get your feedback?

Christa: SINFI set up a table at the festival with samples from more than a dozen local ethnic restaurants and shops. After tasting the samples, community members could either use a sticker or an online survey (via QR code) to rate each sample. Surprisingly, all responses came in the form of a sticker.

Nate: We decided that paper surveys would be an administrative burden and email may not be the best way to reach many of our participants. Because over 95% of our participants have mobile phone numbers on file within our database, we settled on SMS text message surveys.

Q: What question(s) did you ask?

Christa: We simply asked: “Would you eat this again?” with “yes”, “maybe”, and “no” options. 

Nate: We designed questions that would allow CEO to have actionable data. For example, we ask participants if they are satisfied with their progress early in the program so that we can quickly identify participants who need additional services.

Q: How have you have taken action based on the responses you received?

Christa: First, we confirmed that we need to keep low-tech channels open as we move closer to building our digital community. Second, the chefs who made the dishes were present and received valuable feedback on their recipes. Finally, the feedback we received will be used to inform what foods, chefs, and vendors to use at future events.

Nate: CEO staff receive weekly summary reports to which their responsive action ranges from one-on-one follow-up to key program changes. We have found that this immediate action makes our model systematically more responsive to the needs of current and future participants and builds equity throughout the organization.

Rad Resource:

You can learn more about CEO’s project in this video.

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This post was originally published on December 7, 2019 in AEA365, a blog sponsored by the American Evaluation Association (AEA) that is dedicated to highlighting Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources, and Lessons Learned for evaluators.

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