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How many people can truly collaborate on Integrated Early Childhood Data?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Back in November, the Administration for Children & Families released a report on the progress of state Early Childhood Integrated Data System (ECIDS) work. I’m guessing most people in the field heard about this report and did what they usually do when they receive another big ‘guidance document’ or federal report. Did you cancel your evening plans, load it on your Kindle, and get cozy with a mug of mulled wine? It is more likely, that you flagged the email to follow-up, or you saved the PDF to your desktop. You may have gotten as far as printing it out (highlighter in hand!) just as something else pulls your attention away.

It is important that this report was released when it was. Nearly every state is actively developing an ECIDS. For those who are interested, this report provides many examples of state work along with information on available resources and tools that support integration efforts. The field has enough experience now to share comprehensive advice on tackling some of the most challenging aspects of creating the infrastructure and processes necessary to integrate data.

The report also includes information that may be new to some about collaboration strategies. Collaboration can seem high-stress, but it is also high-reward. In the January 5th episode of the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast, Heidi Gardner (Distinguished Fellow in the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School and author of recent book Smart Collaboration) defines collaboration as

“the integration of specialized expertise to solve problems that no expert, no matter how smart or hardworking, could solve alone.”

This perspective aligns directly to ECIDS work; state agencies are working to answer questions about child experiences and outcomes that they could not answer alone. The ED and HHS report provides recommendations for collaboration that will help states deal with issues of getting agency and individual buy-in and ensuring sustainability. For example, it addresses the importance of data governance, what it means to build capacity to use data, and how to define data quality to ensure comparability across systems. These considerations will help states mitigate some of the challenges, and in the end create a more sustainable system. ECDW also is working on this.