The Importance of Data Collection for Cultural Competency Efforts
As service providers, we are generally comfortable with reporting outcomes of our work: number of clients served, health outcomes achieved, etc. Outcomes related to cultural and linguistic competency, however, can be difficult to quantify and describe. This is due to the fact that CLC is a fluid process and strategy for critical thinking, unable to be measured by more traditional outputs.
Data collection is important for assessing and communicating an organization’s CLC efforts. Ultimately, CLC data collection serves three important purposes:
1. To inform external stakeholders.
External stakeholders include state, federal, and private funding agencies, as well as the general community you serve. The data you collect is used to assure them you are meeting their needs, and holds you accountable to their goals.
2. To assess internal activities.
Because cultural and linguistic competency is a process, it needs constant assessment and evaluation. If you have recently implemented a strategy to enhance your client interactions, for example, the data you collect will help determine if that strategy is effective in your environment.
3. To advise decision-making.
The data will help you decide what CLC strategies you need, such as trainings for specific populations, phone recordings in a specific language, or transportation services offered to a specific area. Whenever implementing CLC strategies or improvements for your clients and/or staff, you should look to the data to ensure those strategies are targeted to your specific needs or future trends.
What Data Should I Collect?
The Department of Health and Human Services has data collection guidelines, as well as other funders who may require you to collect specific points of data to be in compliance with federal or state mandates. However, if you are looking to create a more comprehensive picture of your CLC efforts, you may want to consider the following prompts:
Client demographics: who do we serve?
Could include: age, race/ethnicity, disability status, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic information, family size/makeup, etc.
Community demographics: who are our potential clients?
Could include: local demographics, anticipated changes, new trends, etc.
Service delivery: how do clients access and use our services?
Could include: application process, appointment attendance records, services offered vs. services used, client satisfaction scores, client outcomes, etc.
CLC activities: how has our organization implemented CLC strategies?
Could include: trainings provided, employee satisfaction surveys, client satisfaction surveys, responses to external trends, building modifications, etc.
These are just some of the different points to get your organization thinking about what data points may be helpful for your environment to start collecting in a systematic and continuous process. Keep in mind, when collecting sensitive information from a client always ask if it is truly needed. Though we want as much comprehensive data as possible, requesting information about a client’s sexual orientation or religion may create unnecessary discomfort. In most cases, demographic information should always be labeled as “optional” to reduce anxiety of the client and allow for maximum level of comfort during service delivery.
Communicating the Data
Once you have collected the data, communicating what it has told you is key for informing and engaging all levels of stakeholders: the community, partners, funders, as well as internal board and staff. Not only does it relay your progress towards the goals set out by these stakeholders, it also articulates the value of your program and the CLC enhancements you have worked so hard to implement. Identifying the impacts of your efforts, defining the value they have created, and creating a targeted message for specific stakeholder groups will help promote your CLC initiatives and ensure sustained support.
When determining how to communicate the impact of your program or CLC enhancements, ask yourself the following questions:
What am I trying to accomplish with this message?
Who needs to hear this message?
What is the most important point I need them to hear?
Why should they care about the message I’m communicating?
How can I best get this message to them?
A key part of this communication strategy is how the message gets disseminated. There are several strategies for reaching internal and external stakeholders:
- Newsletters (electronic or printed), flyers, brochures
- Radio or TV announcements
- Posters or signs in office
- Announcements on website
- Client enrollment packets
- Case studies or best practice highlights included in reports
- Live updates about successes or progress during meetings and events