Social responsibility: How can data close 3 critical gaps in community-based organisations?

Reliable data can make a big difference to how well you serve your customers – and avoid unnecessary mistakes. Amplifi looks at how Data Management can help with safeguarding, personalisation and reporting.

As a community-based, socially responsible organisation, you have a duty of care to your customers: the patients, tenants, donors or citizens that use your services. With organisations like yours facing more demand – and scrutiny – than ever before, data is your most valuable tool to help you deliver the best experience to your customers.

Yet while data is an asset to your organisation, it isn’t without its dangers, as we outline in our guide: Data for Good: A guide to enhancing your organisation’s social impact with data. Automations, digital communications, data-driven decision-making, self-service portals...they all have the potential to bring your organisation closer to the people that need you but, if they are managed incorrectly, they can also create more distance between your teams and the communities you serve.

So how can you make sure that your data is consistently helping you to do good in your community and not driving a wedge between your organisation and the people you support?

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Part of the answer is effective data management. It doesn’t matter how advanced or elaborate the data-driven technologies you implement are if the data that’s driving them isn’t up to scratch, and if the people in your organisation don’t understand its value and their responsibilities. While data management alone won’t make you a data-driven organisation overnight, it is the foundation that every organisation needs to become one, ensuring that your organisation always has access to reliable, accurate data whenever it is needed – whether you simply want your staff to have better access to information or you want to implement more complex digital initiatives like automation or self-service portals.

Once you have this high-quality data at your disposal, you can use it to offer a better, more reliable service to your customers – and close some of the critical gaps that many community-focused organisations are experiencing as they move to a more digital future.

Here, we look at some of those gaps and the data management fixes you need to close them.

Preventing vulnerable people from ‘falling through the gaps’ 

It’s a phrase used all too often in the media, as opportunities to support vulnerable people are missed by the organisations that have a duty of care to protect them.

In the charity sector, there was the elderly lady bombarded with donation requests. In social services, there have been several high-profile child neglect cases where important information wasn’t passed between the right people or departments. In housing associations, there are recent reports of lethal black mould being missed, with terrible consequences for tenants and their families.

Could better management and utilisation of data prevent instances like these from happening in the future? Perhaps. Data is, of course, never going to be the only factor in cases like these, but it can empower teams and individuals with the information they need to spot patterns, raise red flags, and take action quickly to protect and support vulnerable customers.

Data fix:

Close the gaps – or in other words, tackle your data silos. In community-focused organisations, data siloes aren’t just inconvenient, they can be dangerous: if different departments are keeping their data separate, it is much harder to see the full picture of any customer or situation, making it much easier for signs to be missed. Effective data management won’t just get rid of existing siloes, it will prevent new ones from forming in the future, thanks to a combination of education, technology and processes.

Avoiding impersonal relationships with customers

There’s something infuriating about getting correspondence addressed to a wrong or misspelt name, but when that email, letter or text has come from an organisation that is supposed to have a duty of care towards you – your GP, your local council, etc – the impact can be far worse. How can people trust that your organisation is making the best decisions based on their data if you can’t even get the basics right?

Identity in particular can be a sensitive issue and can be more than just a mild annoyance if you get it wrong, but personalisation based on inaccurate data can also present wider issues around compliance, resourcing, and even safeguarding. Take the charity example mentioned earlier: could you have individuals duplicated across your data due to small inaccuracies, and be unwittingly sending them multiple correspondences? It may sound like a minor issue, but it could cause stress and anxiety for the recipient, particularly if it relates to sensitive subjects like finance, housing, or health.

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Data fix:

A data quality exercise is always the first step to ensuring that personalisation is, in fact, personal and based on accurate information – but it won’t provide a long-term solution. You’ll also need Data Governance to keep data quality high and make sure you’re consistently keeping up your data quality priorities. Data Management technology like MDM will also help you to centralise your information, again eradicating siloes and making it easier to edit and cleanse data.

Eradicating inaccurate reporting for good

A few years ago, journalists discovered a serious scoop on the UK’s local councils: eighteen councils had no funding left in their reserves to protect against financial uncertainty, according to data released directly from those local authorities. It presented a dire financial situation and a scandal for the government, suggesting severe financial pressure and potential mismanagement...except that it wasn’t true. Yes, the data came from local councils, but on closer inspection by journalists involved in the story it became clear that the data had been reported incorrectly, with one finance office stating that the data entry process “had not been taken seriously enough”. The money existed in the real world, but the data didn’t reflect it.

What if those figures became the basis of government decision-making? What if the stark financial ‘reality’ resulted in cuts to services that were not necessary, potentially putting people in the local authority at risk? What if jobs in the local authority were cut to save funding? None of these things did happen, but inaccurate data that goes unchecked can have serious consequences for reporting and subsequent decision-making.

Data fix:

Take a data-first, rather than reporting-first, approach to how you collect, prioritise and maintain your data. With a data-first approach you focus on the quality and availability of your overall data, not just the data you need for the report at hand. Mistakes like this one are much easier to spot if you have a strong understanding of your data across your organisation. Rather than being an abstract, data becomes a reflection of ‘real world’ assets and operations. Successful Data Management is the first step to shifting to this data-first way of collating and reporting data.  

Want to do good with data? Download our guide, Data for Good: A guide to enhancing your organisation’s social impact with data, to find out what you need to do to make your data a force for good in your community.

Guide: Data for Good

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