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From Data to Action

You can use data to take action to improve the outcomes of children and families. Find helpful information, tips, guiding questions and resources to make a difference with data.

What is Data?

Data are “facts or figures from which conclusions can be drawn”. Data becomes valuable when it can identify a need,  expand insight or be leveraged to achieve change. Data can be used to describe what is going on or what exists or to examine relationships between different things.

While there is an abundance of data, the challenge  lies in selecting and accessing the best data to meet the defined purpose of inquiry and produce an analysis that is credible and useful.  Many considerations including the origin, type and quality of data, feasibility, relevance and usefulness factor into decisions about what data to select to build knowledge and address an issue.


Building capacity for evidence-informed public health – from the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools

Sample Tools

Developing a Research Question

Why Use Data?

By making data interactive and accessible, Raising the Village aims to empower users to select data that can be applied to:

  1. Better decision-making: A primary driver for using data is to overcome the shortcomings of using anecdotes and intuition for decision-making. Good quality data that is reliable and valid builds credibility and a stronger basis for understanding need.  Data helps test assumptions, identify root causes and choose actions.
  2. Data for Equity: A key priority is to use data to support equitable resourcing and opportunity for children and families that may face barriers related to their identities and/or circumstances. Disaggregating data by neighbourhoods or demographic characteristics can identify inequities and motivate action planning. 


Sample Tools

Public Health Training for Equitable Systems Change (Producer). (2019, September 20). Welcome to Tenfold! [Audio podcast].

Understanding Data

There are different types of data and knowledge sources. These include population data such as the Census, community knowledge about the local context and issues, administrative and program data about service utilization and participant outcomes and research and literature.

  • Each type of data source has a focus, strengths and limitations
  • Data sources should be assessed for quality and accuracy
  • Using multiple data sources helps understand the problem/issue or possible actions
  • Users need to be cautious in making cause-effect claims based on descriptive analysis: causal analysis would require in-depth statistical analysis
  • Users need to consider ethics and be responsible including:
    • Being transparent about data selection, collection and analysis and limitations
    • Making efforts to address potential bias and limitations where possible such as by collecting additional information to address data gaps where feasible
    • Ensuring informed consent and privacy and confidentiality of personal information
    • Being  inclusive and respectful of those that are the focus of inquiry


  • Data sources for Raising the Village include a description of their strengths and limitations.


Assessing Data Quality

Qualitative Research

Sample Tools

Data-to-Action Examples

The following illustrative examples demonstrate how the data in Raising the Village can be used. Videolinks walk you through how and where to find different types of data.

Awareness and Education


A grade 7 class wants to see the results from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) census for grade 7 and 8 students about their school neighbourhood to understand and discuss strengths and challenges.

Data accessed: Outcomes and indicators from the grade 7-8 TDSB Census

How to get information about the issue:



  • The team of students discussed the indicators and the meaning of the data compared to what they see in their neighbourhood.
  • They made info-graphics to summarize their findings and added quotes from team members taken from their discussion notes.
  • To extend their learning and share their knowledge, they presented their findings to the school’s parent council



Professional Development


A management team wants to strengthen staff capacity to better understand local neighbourhood contexts to meet the needs of infants, newborns to 18 months’ old, and their families.

Data accessed: Neighbourhood Comparison Dashboard; Child and Family Inequities Score; Outcomes on Physical Health and Well-Being and Health Checks

How to get information about the issue:


Neighbourhood Profile Resource developed collaboratively with staff that help staff understand key characteristics of a neighbourhood and learn how to use the data for responsive programming.


Program Planning


A program manager wants to assess if children and families who attend a child and family centre  are representative of the neighbourhood where they are located.

Data Accessed: Neighbourhood Comparison Tool

How to get information about the issue:


Develop an outreach strategy to identified groups in the neighbourhood  who are not attending the child and family centre.


Grant Application


A grant application for funding, to support a program targeting children living in lone-parent households that are at greater risk of mental health, requires data to support the need for the program.

Data Accessed: Child and Family Demographics; Equity Analysis Toolkit

How to get information about the issue:


Data from the Child and Family Demographics and the Equity Analysis Toolkit is provided local context about the issue and valuable support for the grant application

Community Planning


A community planning table wants to identify an area to focus on in a neighbourhood in order to develop a collective action project that will improve the rights and opportunities outcome for children 0-12 years

Data Accessed: Neighbourhood Comparison Dashboard; Child and Family Inequities Score; Outcomes for Rights and Opportunities; Equity Analysis Toolkit;  Child and Family Services Map

How to get information about the issue:



  • Advocate for increased public funding for programming to support 6-12 year-olds in partnership with the three local schools
  • Conduct consultation with families with children 6 to 12 years old in the south area of the neighhourhood including specific outreach to low income, Black and Southeast Asian populations to identify needs and the  barriers that prevent participation in sports programs
System Planning


A system manager is targetting new funding to expand hours of service that support school-aged children 4-12 years-old in neighbourhoods that are vulnerable in the language and cognitive development.

Data Accessed: Child and Family Inequities Score; Outcome indicators for Language and Cognitive Development

How to get information about the issue:


Implementation of new service hours in 10 designated neighbourhoods that met the criteria.


Tips, Guiding Questions and Resources

Below you will find tips, guiding questions and useful resources to support data to action.


Position Yourself for Success:

  • Choose an issue that is interesting and a priority
  • Frame and focus your work by developing a clear and specific issue statement: Start out with general exploration of your topic and narrow it to a clear statement before you start any planning for action.  State what you want to address so that everyone understands and there is no ambiguity.  Re-state and focus your issue statement at different points in the data-to-action process, if needed, based on findings.

Use visuals:

  • Draw a diagram to connect the issue, data and links to action. This diagram can take the form of a logic model or mind map.
  • Download maps and data views: Use the download feature to keep track of the data you need from the website.  These visuals can also be used to start conversations with your data and action partners.

Use primary data collectionYou may need to collect additional data to understand the local context and needs.  Here is a list of options for primary data collection:

  • Survey of families/children/staff/community members/leaders
  • Interviews/focus groups targetted with specific populations
  • Consultation with community, neighbourhood and individuals
  • Observation
  • Program document/records review
  • Evaluation or service data


  • Whose support do you need to gain insight and traction for defining and addressing the issue?
  • Who is affected by the issue? Are there people that have knowledge, power, skills or expertise who can help clarify and understand the issue? A subject expert? A person with influence? A community leader or partner? A person with lived experience? A strong communicator?
  • Are there people that have experience addressing this issue that you could learn from? Children and families? Program staff? Community partners? Program decision-makers? System leaders/government partners?
  • Engage others and share your findings to build a full picture of the issue and to assess the feasibility of actions
Guiding Questions

Ask questions of the data and take notes to:

Identify patterns and relationships between data points:

    • Are there patterns in the data? Similarities? Differences? Why? Why not?
    • What kinds of patterns do you see by neighbourhood? By groups based on socio-demographic identities such as Indigenous identity, gender, race, language or income? By indicators?

Highlight reflections:

    • Does the data surprise you or challenge what you thought before?  What do you notice and why?

Compare with other data sources:

    • Does the data confirm patterns that you observe in other data sources?
    • For example, does community knowledge and/or program data align or diverge from the data from Raising the Village?
    • Is there information you can bring from other data sources to provide context or to better understand the Raising the Village data?

Relate data to services:

    • Are there links that you see between different patterns shown by the data and the services used in your community and/or program?

Think about Equity:

    • What and who is missing from the data picture?
    • How are people with different socio-demographic characteristics included or excluded?

Basic Approach for Data to Action:

Six step problem solving model

Community development and Action Planning :

Community Tool Box

Community Readiness Assessment

Communicating Findings:

Developing Data Stories


Implementation for Success


Better Evaluation

AEA365: A tip-a-day by and for evaluators by the American Evaluation Association




Idea Generator

Use these Idea Generators to think about ways to identify an issue.

Use all-ready defined priorities/frameworks:

Review strengths:

  • Brainstorm about organizational, community or program assets that could be strengthened.
  • What positive feedback have you received that highlight a strength?

Review gaps:

  • What is happening in your organization or community compared to what you would like to happen?
  • Who is participating and who is not accessing your service? Why?

Think of groups:

  • Consider if there is a socio-demographic group or age group of children or a family group that is affected by an issue.
  • Has there been a population shift that has created a new need or opportunity?
  • Ask community partners or participants if there is an issue to address.

Think of time and space:

  • Are there issues about location, the neighbourhood or city that are affecting children and families such as transit, living vertically, food security, safety, green space, or development ?
  • Are there issues that relate to time of day, week or season that can be a focus?

Think of emergent issues:

  • Observe emergent issues from your practice or issues brought forward by your organization, community, neighbourhood or a group.
  • What are recent topics, relevant to your context, that were interesting such as from conversations, meetings, or other forums like the media?

Review data:

  • Create a data inventory for your program to raise awareness of existing data, potential gaps and to start conversations about and reflect on use.
  • Review existing needs assessment data if you have it.
  • Explore an issue sparked by Raising the Village.

Feedback and On-going Development of Data-to-Action

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