Afterschool programs can offer enriching opportunities, homework help and a safe environment. To ensure that these programs are cohesive, high-quality and widely available, many cities have designed communitywide systems to coordinate the various afterschool programs offered by different providers. Having a way to collect and share reliable data through these systems can help cities inform and strengthen their efforts.

Drawing from The Wallace Foundation’s Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative, a four-year effort to strengthen systems that support high-quality afterschool programs for low-income youth, the report presents findings on how data systems were established, operated and used in eight cities: Baltimore, Md., Denver, Colo., Grand Rapids, Mich., Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Nashville, Tenn., Philadelphia, Pa., and Saint Paul, Minn.

Interim findings were summarized in an earlier report—Connecting the Dots: Data Use in Afterschool Systemswhich highlighted the importance of three central pillars to developing capacity to collect and use data systems: investments in people, processes and technology.

By the end of the initiative, the eight cities had established data systems by building working coalitions across public, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. Operating these systems required continued attention to the three central pillars. The cities made notable progress in how they used data in meaningful ways, both by expanding how data were used across the system, and by engaging
providers more systematically and purposefully in using data, including for accountability, improvement, strategic planning and program management.

The report offers insights about lessons learned, including:

  • Bring a systems-level focus. This includes having shared goals, staying focused on outcomes and understanding how work and contributions are distributed
  • Collaboratively agree on meaningful indicators that signal progress and can generate recognition
  • Understand local circumstances, contexts and expertise—and that expertise resides at multiple levels of a system

 Points of Interest

  • Establishing and operating complex data systems requires continued attention to three key foundational dimensions: ensuring that the technology was in place and continued to function, that investments in human capital kept pace with system needs, and that policies and practices supported—and helped to routinize—data use.
    Establishing and operating complex data systems requires continued attention to three key foundational dimensions: ensuring that the technology was in place and continued to function, that investments in human capital kept pace with system needs, and that policies and practices supported—and helped to routinize—data use.
  • A new report shares lessons from eight cities that strengthened their use of data at the system level to in order to coordinate and provide afterschool programming more effectively.
    A new report shares lessons from eight cities that strengthened their use of data at the system level to in order to coordinate and provide afterschool programming more effectively.