Resource Development Associates

Two Success Stories: Pivoting to Virtual Data Collection and Stakeholder Engagement

by Nicole Gamache-Kocol, MSW, and Lauren Broder, PhD

Thoughtful and intentional planning is at the heart of any successful project. So what happens when the way in which we work changes so drastically that we cannot recognize the possible path ahead? Like organizations across the world who are reacting and pivoting in response to COVID-19, RDA recognizes that flexibility and innovation have never been more critical and the importance and necessity of pushing work ahead even when it seems impossible to do so. By working with our partners to adapt and develop strategies to improve systems, collect quality data, and implement sustainable systems change, RDA is helping our clients focus on advancing critical work even in these very challenging times.

The week shelter-in-place was announced, in-person data collection had been slated to begin for a statewide evaluation we are supporting. After planning for months to begin the first of three rounds of focus groups that engaged stakeholders ranging from county government representatives to service consumers, it appeared as though we would need to abandon the concept of focus groups altogether. However, through reframing and refocusing we identified the alternate path of conducting individual virtual and phone interviews, enabling us to connect with stakeholders in a meaningful way. Shifting from focus groups to individual remote interviews meant that we would still gather valuable feedback while also minimizing the burden on stakeholders during this period of uncertainty. We recognized that even while the ways we do our work would need to change overnight, the important goals of that work remained and could be addressed with a bit of flexibility and innovation.

In another project, the pivot from face-to-face networking and collaboration to a virtual platform required many considerations. RDA is supporting the facilitation of a large, multi-sector system change effort and central to the project was the goal of reducing silos across healthcare, behavioral health, and homelessness and housing services. To meet the goal of greater communication and collaboration across systems of care, we needed to ensure that stakeholders had the necessary technology to meet virtually; to adjust how material was presented so that it was engaging online; and ultimately, to find creative ways to foster relationship building and social connection among participants. We were able to meet the needs of our stakeholders by being open to feedback, learning from one another, and not being afraid to try new methods of engagement. Providing stakeholders with opportunities to share what they most needed in the moment was critical to our quick and successful shift.

In these uncertain times, systems change and social justice work must continue to move forward. By focusing on our commitment to improving public service systems, we have prioritized adaptability, innovation, and meeting our clients where they are. By ensuring clear and open lines of communication with our clients, we can take a step back, look at the overall goals of our projects, and move forward quickly, focusing on what is critical to achieving success.

Work does not need to stop amid crisis – it needs to be re-imagined and adapted. We can help with that. If your agency would benefit from RDA’s expertise and success with pivoting data collection and stakeholder engagement to remote methods, please contact us.


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