How We Use Data

Data Culture and Data Literacy

Vermont Insights is designed to purposefully promote and support a culture of data and data literacy by providing accurate, relevant and interactive data – visually and geographically – with clear and concise supporting information.

  • Data culture is about individuals within an organization or a group who at all levels seek data to help inform decision making, measure desired outcomes or performance, act based on available data, and build on existing knowledge over time.
  • Data literacy is defined as the ability to intuitively ask and answer questions with data and to critically interpret the answers. (We the Data | For the People, by the People!. (2016). Retrieved February 6, 2016, from

Data Informed Inquiry and Action Cycle

A data informed inquiry and action cycle can provide structure to exploring and using data. It is an iterative process in which data is used to create strategies, take action, and support continuous improvement.

  1. What is your question and data need?
    • Find data and explore that can help answer your question
  2. What are your findings?
    • Were there any surprises or significant themes when you reviewed the data related to your question?
    • What type of progress is taking place in the geographic areas(s) you selected?
  3. Reflective Learning
    • Who and what information (including research, context and experience), could help provide further insight?
  4. What’s the story behind the data?
    • What is contributing positively to the issue you are exploring (e.g. access to high-quality child care)?
    • What is negatively impacting the issue you are exploring?
    • How much improvement do you want to see over the next year? 3 years?
  5. Generating Solutions for Continuous Improvement
    • What are the preconditions necessary to addressing the issue and achieving the desired outcome?
    • What is being done to address the issue you are exploring?
    • What can be done collaboratively to create a shared understanding and concerted solutions?
  6. Shared Learning
    • What wisdom and experience would you want others to know about when addressing this issue?

Approaches that Use Data for Social Change

There are a variety of effective approaches that use data for social change, such as building and improving the early childhood system for the well-being of children, families and communities. Here are three such approaches:

  1. Results Based Accountability (RBA), an outcome-focused methodology to improve the quality of life within communities, as well as the performance of services.
  2. Theory of Change (ToC), an approach that identifies short-term and intermediate steps that need to occur to realize a long-term result or outcome. ToC defines and diagrams those intermediate ends in causal pathways.
  3. Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Unlike most collaborations, collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.

Strategic Communication of Data

When used effectively, data on child, family and community well-being can be a powerful tool to educate stakeholders, inform decision makers and motivate and track improvement of the early childhood system. Building Bright Futures' "How are Vermont's Young Children and Families? March 2015" is one example (see our publications page).

More and more resources are becoming available on this topic, including those listed below. Contact us if you know of a good resource to add to this list.