In 2003, voter approval of Measure Y gave the City of Oakland responsibility for funding and monitoring a suite of youth and violence prevention programs intended to cut crime, reduce recidivism and improve life opportunities for Oakland’s young people.
But success would depend on the careful execution of a multidimensional approach to youth services among three distinct entities – Measure Y (Oakland Unite), the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth (OFCY), and Oakland Public Schools – representing more than 120 schools and youth programs, and over 50 violence prevention programs in total. Each entity needed rapid, efficient ways of gathering program data; more importantly, they needed secure ways to share critical data among themselves, in real time, to expedite rapid action and demonstrate outcomes to their stakeholders, including funders and community voters.
Solution: Create an integrated system for tracking services and outcomes
Cityspan worked with representatives of Oakland Unite, OFCY, and Oakland Public Schools to design and implement a data collection system that met a number of critical requirements:
Focus on priorities
To fulfill their obligations, the Oakland agencies needed to capture data that went far beyond ordinary demographic “name and address” information. Cityspan helped the agencies map their system design, workflows and data capture forms to the priorities defined by their respective missions. Oakland Unite, for example, needed to supplement basic client data with arrest statistics, recidivism details and employment data to help them capture program efficacy and track job counseling and placement services.
Given the nature of the client population and the sensitivity of its data, user permissions must be carefully reviewed and managed. Cityspan applied its deep experience with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements to help the entities clear political, legal and technical hurdles, and arrive at mutually agreeable Memorandums of Understanding that set the terms for mutual data access.
Secure real-time data access
The “linchpin” in the system is the information held by the Oakland Public Schools, especially the deep academic data critical for helping place, track and support young people in the programs. Through secure roles and permissions, appropriate case workers and nonprofit agency staff gained access to the student data they need to manage their interventions and measure program performance.
Data validation and standardization
Getting good reports out depends on getting quality data in. Cityspan created validation rules to ensure rigorous data consistency; the system’s automated “flags” intercept incomplete forms to encourage full data capture. By incorporating these controls, the system enforces an alignment between data inputs and reporting requirements.
Automated reporting outputs
Support for these programs depends on complex cross-funding arrangements that can make reporting challenging. Cityspan incorporated the necessary calculations and algorithms into the software itself, allowing Oakland to automatically create appropriate reports for various stakeholders with different requirements, including local councils, state and federal funders, and independent evaluators.
Results: Real-time action, reauthorized funding
Upon implementation, the Oakland programs realized immediate value through the elimination of duplicate data entry and the streamlining of workflows within each agency. But the greater benefits touch on the core missions of the programs themselves:
Real-time data amplifies daily program impact
Ease of data access has enabled agencies to make the daily decisions necessary for real impact. In just one example, probation officers from the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center (JJC), a partner agency of Oakland Unite, can now use real-time Oakland Public Schools student data to help manage juvenile case clients who would otherwise be serving jail time. As a result of daily monitoring, JJC managed clients demonstrated a low 32% recidivism rate as compared to the county average of 73%.
Quality reports support reauthorization
By matching data to mission requirements, and by leveraging automated algorithms that compile reports tailored to funder demands, the agencies are able to document hard outcomes. The data showed that youth enrolled in the collaborating programs experienced a significant reduction in arrests for violence within two years of enrollment; in that same period, 70% of participating youth were not re-arrested. Thanks to this increased accountability, Measure Y was reauthorized for another ten years of funding by Oakland voters.
Thanks to the new standardization of data, funders and other authorities can compare agency performance to each other, and agencies can themselves ensure the appropriate allocation of resources by need (such as geographic areas and population groups) and by program effectiveness.
Cityspan benefits at a glance:
- Precise benchmarking of program performance across city funded programs.
- Reporting that supported reauthorization of youth and violence prevention programs
- Reduced data entry burden for all participants
- Met federal, state and local funding requirements through one data set
- Streamlined workflows and automated complex reporting
- Facilitation of daily program decision making that helped Oakland achieve:
- 70% of participants not re-arrested
- 32% recidivism rate, versus county rate of 73%
- External Study – Data Sharing Makes for Successful Youth Reentry