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New Initiative Will Help NCAN Members (and the Field) Better Understand Program Outcomes

Tuesday, May 7, 2019  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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The National College Access Network is undertaking a new project to help up to 50 of its member organizations better understand their program outcomes, identify effective practices, and contribute to the knowledge base of what works in the college access and success field.

Thanks to generous support through a Data for Good grant from the Nielsen Foundation, NCAN will partner with Mission Measurement and its Impact Genome® Project to increase the use of data to inform positive social change in the education sector. NCAN will offer stipends of $250 and award 12 scholarships to the 2019 NCAN National Conference in Indianapolis to its members who complete the Impact Genome® Impact Survey. The survey helps to translate programs’ outcomes and activities into a common framework. From there, programs and the field can make “apples to apples” comparisons about outcomes. The project will result in participating members receiving tailored reports about their program’s alignment with best practices identified in the literature and suggestions about how other, similar programs approach their work. NCAN will receive an aggregated analysis of the portfolio of participating members.

Ultimately, the project will demonstrate the range of activities NCAN member organizations employ to achieve their outcomes. It will also help build the capacity of participating programs by providing a standardized framework to organize activities and outcomes, which can be used for communication to funders and among peer programs. 

“The Impact Genome Project democratizes access to evidence and brings together the knowledge of practitioners and researchers so they can better learn from each other,” says Dr. Heather King, director of education research at Mission Measurement. “Once we get everyone speaking the same language in terms of outcomes, we can create concrete strategies for collective impact.”

Members interested in participating in this collective impact effort should contact Bill DeBaun, NCAN’s director of data and evaluation, who will also be reaching out to members to invite their participation. The window to signal intent to participate will close at the end of June. NCAN will host a webinar to further discuss the project’s structure and goals on June 5 at 2 p.m. ET. Members can register here.

"NCAN often stresses the importance of ensuring effective practice and measuring program impact,” says NCAN Executive Director Kim Cook. “This opportunity allows members to cultivate understanding of their own programs while growing the field’s broader understanding of what leads to positive postsecondary outcomes.”

We will share results from this project with attendees at NCAN’s national conference in Indianapolis, and we will further disseminate the results afterward through webinars and blog posts. Over the next few months, watch the NCAN blog as we highlight the resources in the Impact Genome® Project and how members can put them to use.

This effort continues NCAN’s leadership in measuring the impact of the college access and success field. The Benchmarking Project, a collaboration between NCAN and its members to understand the postsecondary outcomes of students served by college access and success programs, has completed five rounds of data collection and reporting.

(Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)