More and more innovators and agents for change are recognizing the importance of bringing data to bear 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 decision-making in one way or another, and so the question is: How can we better use it to create meaningful change?

Data can supplement intuitive understanding with new perspectives and information to help validate the existence of a problem, discover new aspects of the problem, advocate for the problem to be solved as well as surface and vet potential solutions. Decision-making supported with high-quality data can be more strategic by helping collaborative efforts and individual leaders direct resources to where the greatest impact is possible. Data-informed learning can and should occur in real-time as strategies are being implemented. One of the reasons we highlight the role of the implementers in the learning process is because of the potential for rapid change to strategies when the implementers of the strategy are also the learners.

You don’t need to be a full-fledged evaluator or researcher to use data in decision-making. Asking the right questions, being thoughtful about the data-gathering process, and acting on the answers are all powerful tools for catalyzing change. This toolkit will walk you through how to ask the right questions and find answers interpret and present your data and finally, apply what you’ve learned.