Historically, the nonprofit sector has operated on the “isolated impact” approach, where a single organization works toward finding a solution to a problem or need. By working independently, however, organizations are sometimes out of step with each other in their efforts to solve the same social problems. Marillac St. Vincent believes that through partnering with organizations, solutions to these societal quandaries can be found more efficiently.
MSV is a proud member of the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative (CBC), working to bring organizations together. The CBC is an alliance of local education and human service agencies who have joined forces to increase the quality of all services offered to low-income people in Chicago. The seven member agencies meet regularly to compare data, share best practices, and review program results. The common goal is to create a model of collaboration that can be replicated by other organizations in other cities and states.
Since launching in 2009, the CBC's findings and subsequent program implementations have shown a positive impact for over 12,000 of Chicago’s children and families. MSV joined the collaborative in 2017. CEO, Peter Beale-DelVecchio, is a big proponent of the use of data in making decisions for MSV. "Data will help us assess what the needs are for the populations we serve and help us decide if we need to invest in more of what we are doing or whether there are needs we aren’t meeting. That could point to us investing more resources in existing programs or finding another agency to partner with to get those needs met. In the end, it’s all about the people we serve,” Beale-DelVecchio said.
Kevin McGhee, the Data Quality Analyst at MSV, is the organization's liaison to the collaborative and has been spearheading its data collection and measurement. “It’s been really helpful for us to be part of the CBC. In terms of data analysis, it’s important to know what other organizations are doing and how they measure their data so you have something to benchmark against. To some, it might seem scary to share your information with others, but knowing this work will allow us to have a greater impact on our clients is worth it,” McGhee said.
Recently, the CBC released a toolkit titled, “Increasing Mission Impact Through Collaboration.” The document is a framework for collaborating that other organizations and companies can use to learn how to best measure their data and improve practices. The CBC will continue to update this information as they learn more through data measurement.
“In the process of joining the CBC, we learned that staff needed more training to ensure we are measuring data properly and so we have begun scheduling training sessions for MSV employees,” Beale-DelVecchio said, “Professional development is a major step to providing even better care for those we serve.” In addition to learning more about the mechanics of data measurement, MSV’s CEO talked about comparing data from MSV to the other organizations in the collaborative. “We found that in some cases, we outperformed the collective benchmark and in others we underperformed. Learning this has helped us assess where we shine and what we need to work on in order to strengthen our programs and positively impact clients and staff.”
One way that MSV hopes to use data from the CBC is by measuring how effective our pre-kindergarten programs are. “We want to make sure the kids are becoming kindergarten ready, which means seeing how successful our programs are right now and working to improve them down the line. Doing that will be beneficial to a child now and in the future,” McGhee said.
Looking ahead, both Kevin McGhee and Peter Beale-DelVecchio are of about what data from the collaborative will mean for Marillac St. Vincent. “In the next 12-months, I hope we can look across all the organizations and all our classrooms and to identify those with high achievement. Then we can look and see what is happening in that classroom which helps every organization improve. It could be teachers at other organizations learning from our staff or our staff learning from them,” Beale-DelVecchio said, “That will make early learning in Chicago stronger. That will make Chicago families stronger.”