A CMS or Client Management System (also called a CRM or Client Relationship Management system or Case Management System) are key tools for delivering and improving social services. They are also big business, and can be quite costly to invest in. We know social organisations that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and for larger organisations, millions of dollars on these IT database systems. They are significant investments for cash-strapped social organisations. Yet they don’t always deliver good value.
We advise clients not to rush into buying a CMS, but to first spend time designing your data ecosystem. The key to getting the most out of your IT providers is to develop a detailed, mapped set of metrics and to be clear how you will use this data for better decision making. This forms part of your functional brief to the CMS provider, but it also reduces duplication and the need to re-work your system when you need to make changes down the track.
Here are our top six principles to consider before investing in a new CMS:
1. Start with the end in mind
We run what we call ‘End State’ workshops that help organisations get laser-focused on the social mission and organisational goals. As you identify what your organisation is trying to achieve, the workshop helps you identify the data you’ll need to achieve your key goals. This then enables you to decide what outputs (reports, IT dashboards) you need to generate these metrics. The End State process is an acquired skill because you have to balance frontline and client needs, quality of data, validated metrics as well and organisational and operational considerations.
Community Colleges are important providers of education and job pathways for people with various barriers to learning and employment. They sit at the intersection of adult education and social impact, and government funders are increasingly looking to explore outcomes-based funding in this sector.
Latitude Network is working with the peak body Community Colleges Australia and five community colleges to run a collaborative data project with the NSW Department of Education. The aim is to develop a common set of data collection standards across multiple colleges to allow comparative data on outcomes and performance.
This is an exciting project that demonstrates how data systems, continuous improvement and innovation processes can be applied at a systems level in social and education sectors. The project is designing a system that works for multiple different organisations using different student management systems (databases), in a range of different geographies serving a wide range of student needs. The de-identified data can then be collated across multiple organisations in a consistent way to create dashboards and analysis covering different programs, locations, services and outcomes.
In the next phase Latitude Network will build common dashboards and conduct periodic ‘deep dives’, or data analytics reports, to generate insights that enable colleges to improve (optimise) services and social impact. Comparative data is very powerful because it allows individual colleges to anonymously see their performance in the context of the performance of other organisations delivering in different regions. This provides evidence to flag performance gaps and to learn from best practices with objective data (not just those who claim to have good practice).
This work is important for peak bodies to consider as a tool to improve system performance in any sector or sub-sector of the social services system. Watch this space for more information as the project moves to implementation. Feel free to reach out to us about lessons from this project if you are seeking to improve performance in multi-stakeholder or cross-organisation collaborations.
Latitude Network are thrilled to announce that we will be working with Reclink Australia and Vichealth on a unique outcomes challenge: to get 100,000 young Victorians to be more physically active and socially connected. In doing so, this project will tap into 160 different underutilised sites across Victoria to transform them into physical activity spaces for young people.
Funded by VicHealth and supported by a host of youth organisations and agencies, the project will be genuinely co-design and produced by young people, using open innovation thinking to ensure that physical activities and environments meet the needs and preferences of the young people who will use them.
Latitude Network will bring its expertise in open innovation and data-driven performance management to ensure that this project generates lasting, measurable outcomes for young Victorians, whilst building capability in Reclink (and partners) in its approach to data, program design, segmentation, outcomes and impact measurement.
More on the project here.
Article first published on Pro Bono News 22 September 2021.
With the move to reporting on outcomes gaining pace, Dale Renner, director of Latitude Network, shares advice on what social organisations can do to build an outcomes-focused organisation.
Have you noticed that more and more philanthropic and government funders are asking for proposals to have an “outcomes focus”? Impact investors and service commissioners increasingly want evidence that a program makes a difference.
The move to report on “outcomes” is gathering momentum and for good reason. The purpose of social sector funding, whether in homelessness, mental health or child protection, is to improve the lives of people – to make a difference. That’s also the mission of every social sector organisation.
An outcome is a way of defining and measuring this important “difference” made in someone’s life – between dropping out of school and finishing school, between being employed or not employed, between mental distress and a sense of wellbeing. By defining and measuring the right outcomes, organisations and funders can focus efforts on what matters most to the service recipient, and therefore make the most social impact.
Reinventing homelessness prevention
In an effort to deliver better outcomes and prevent homelessness in South Australia, the South Australian government has run a competitive tender of homelessness services in the state under a new structure. It sought responses from alliances of social service organisations to work together to address problems in the homelessness system under a single funding contract for an entire region covering all homeless cohorts. The previous system for the Adelaide City and South region was a series of separate funding agreements across 15 different agencies without a common outcomes framework or formal methods to interconnect between services.
Latitude Network supported the Toward Home Alliance to develop a ground up homelessness strategy and program logic based on prevention. With the team, we identified the wide range of cohorts with differing needs across the homelessness system. We zeroed in on those at risk of entering the homelessness system and identified a way to capture data and shift resources towards preventing entry into the crisis accommodation system.
The alliance partners developed a professional and mature way of collaborating which provided a strong platform for development of a more ambitious program design. This represents one of the most significant changes to the homelessness system in some years, and provides a pathway for better collaboration, use of data, and continuous improvement with transparent sharing of outcomes between the social sector partners and government.
The new outcomes–oriented approach helps to align government and social service organisation interests more directly with client interests. The achievement of client outcomes and prevention of entry into high cost homelessness services provides benefits for all parties.
Congratulations to the alliance partners that will now deliver integrated, outcomes-based homelessness services for the Adelaide City and South region -
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Cricket, and the local cricket club, is at the heart of hundreds of communities across Victoria. Growing participation numbers are a positive sign that cricket plays an important community role, transcending age, gender, race and ability. However the impact cricket has on the local community is largely undefined, and often it's potential is often untapped.
Cricket Victoria - one of Victoria's leading sporting organisations - intrinsically knew that cricket connects communities and improves lives by bringing people together. It was clear that cricket delivered mental, physical and cultural benefits, positively shaping the lives of the individuals and communities involved.
However, Cricket Victoria wanted to know ‘How can we measure and enhance our social impact through the cricket experience?’. And, ‘How can we be more targeted and deliberate in the impact we deliver locally’?
Cricket Vic also recognised that the needs and issues important to the community varies across the thousands of cricket clubs across the state. Any system for improving social impact would therefore need to be:
THE ROLE LATITUDE NETWORK PLAYED
This project was delivered over two key stages: the first focused on understanding the needs of local clubs, communities and the types of social and health issues that clubs could realistically engage with. It delivered a frame and a method that Cricket Vic could use to help clubs enhance their social impact using participation as the main tool. The second stage (ongoing through 2020-21) is piloting the process (known as the Community Outcomes Framework) by working with clubs themselves to co-design initiatives to identify and address local needs and using data to measure the impact.
Latitude Network has built a Community Impact Framework for Cricket Victoria that, once tested, will enable cricket clubs right around Victoria to identify and address important social issues within the community using participation as the key tool. We continue to work with Cricket Vic and clubs in stage 2 (2020-21) to co-design local impact initiatives and use data to monitor and evidence the effect during the club cricket season.