When government entities or non-profit organizations want to make decisions on policies and practices, they often run into the problem of not having necessary, easy to understand information to move their work forward. This often leads to uncertainty, inaction, or incomplete decisions. However, it doesn’t have to be like that.
The Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Studies (ILLAPS) in the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS mission is to help solve these information problems for non-profits and government entities of all sizes. In coordination with our partners, we solve information problems in three ways:
- We disseminate best practices within particular fields through in-depth synchronous and asynchronous trainings, conferences, and staff coordination.
- We create datasets specific to partner needs from both existing data and the collection of original data.
- We analyze and synthesize information for partners to make it easy to act upon.
Are you looking for data help but aren’t sure where to begin? Below is more in-depth information on each of these three areas to better help you understand how we can be of help to your organization.
Dissemination of Information through conferences, training, or staff coordination
Information dissemination can come from a number of different issues: for example, an entity may have actionable information that needs to be distributed widely, or it may have specific data that needs to get to the right people in the right way. Dissemination of information issues can also stem from expertise gaps in an organization’s staff, leading that organization to need a central person who can lead coordination across multiple partners.
There are several ways that ILLAPS approaches solving these problems. Just a few examples of ways we’ve helped in the past include:
Presentations, Forums, and Conferences
Bringing together people for conversations is often an effective way to communicate the useful information organizations have to share. It can create opportunities to collaborate and consider information in new and exciting ways, often leading to actionable conclusions grounded in real-world data. ILLAPS can help organize and execute these types of opportunities.
Other times, our partners have information dissemination issues where they have actionable data, but it is not in the hands of those who need. In this case, we coordinate trainings and professional certifications on behalf of our partners.
One training partnership we are particularly proud of is with America’s law enforcement community, which we provide training to through a variety of internal programs. For example, our TSRP program solved the data dissemination problem of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) by providing training, education, and technical support directly to traffic prosecutors and law enforcement officers throughout Illinois. Other related training programs offered by ILLAPS include the Project for Public Safety and Justice (PPSJ), which provides professional development to law enforcement officers and SUPR DUI Trainings, which provides required training and certifications for DUI Evaluators across the state.
Occasionally, our partners have identified holes in their organization but lack the personnel expertise to solve these inefficiencies. They may require coordinating staffing, deliverables, and funding across multiple government agencies and non-profit organizations. For these partners, ILLAPS frequently houses and oversees the personnel solutions.
A long-standing and particularly exciting example of our coordinating work is with the Illinois General Assembly and Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). Rather than hiring regular staff positions, these entities work with ILLAPS to facilitate the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship Program (ILSIP). In another example, to coordinate between the State High Safety Office, IDOT, and local law enforcement agencies, ILLAPS houses staff from the Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) program to promote, enhance, and evaluate state and national highway safety programs, initiatives, and campaigns.
Collection of Information: Research, Data Organization, and Data Operationalization
When a government entity or non-profit is dealing with a lack of data, the issue is often compounded with the problems of where to get it, how to analyze it, and how to combine it with potentially existing data in meaningful ways.
To help with collection, analysis, and interpretation of information, ILLAPS works with existing partners, expert research staff, top-notch contractors, and nationally-recognized faculty members at UIS and the larger U of I system to provide answers to the best way forward.
ILLAPS’ Survey Research Office (SRO) offers strong expertise in the area of survey research, particularly in questionnaire design, data collection, and analysis. The SRO has worked with numerous partners across a variety of topics over the past 40 years, such as:
- Collecting in-depth public health data for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Helping entities like the Illinois Tobacco Quitline and Institute for Museum and Library Services with program evaluation
- Helping cities in their marketing and branding efforts
- Collecting public safety data for IDOT in a longitudinal study that has lasted nearly 20 years
If you’re looking for survey research assistance, our SRO can help you. No matter your organization’s data needs, the SRO has the expertise and experience necessary to formulate and execute a plan to meet your survey research needs.
Building Datasets from Existing Data
Another common data problem for our partners is with cleaning and interpreting data sets. For example, an organization may have several questions they need answers to and several separate data sets that may have data to answer those questions, but their team lacks the expertise to organize and interpret that data.
In this kind of scenario, ILLAPS will collect that existing data and build it into an accurate and useful database that either we or the organization can analyze to draw actionable conclusions. A recent example of this work is in partnership with IDPH, IDOT, and the CDC to identify, combine, and share data on traffic collisions and hospitalizations for injuries sustained in such collisions.
Data Operationalization for New Data
Finally, in some cases, a partner may have an information problem that cannot be solved with existing data because the topic of interest hasn't been measured in a useful way. ILLAPS can help solve this problem by designing a systematic and transparent plan for measuring the topic of interest. As part of this process, we will help develop a clear plan on how to measure the topic and facilitate the collection of data using that plan. This process may take a variety of methodological forms depending on need, phenomena of interest, and best practices.
Analysis of Information and Creation of Reports
One final information problem partners may encounter is simply making sense of the collected data. For this, ILLAPS relies upon high-caliber faculty, contractors, and staff to communicate analysis in several formats, depending on the needs of the partner. The following deliverables are created to provide our partners with analysis that meets them on their level and solves their information problems with clear and actionable results.
The most frequent way we communicate data analysis with our partners is through in-depth written reports or policy briefs. These reports are wide-ranging, exhaustive of the all data collected, and include detailed methodological choices.
Each report is meant to be an accessible deep dive into the data to answer the substantive questions of our partners. Examples of these reports have been shared by our partners here, here, and here.
Another common way we have communicated data analysis with partners is through executive summaries. Where our written reports are meant to be deep dives into projects, executive summaries are much shorter—typically less than 5 pages—and are meant to communicate key findings in a brief, but understandable way.
Lastly, a frequent and popular way we have communicated analysis is through infographics. In these one-page, graphic heavy documents, we summarize key findings in a brief, visual format. Professional graphic design software and editing allows us to provide a useful visual summations of a projects takeaways for partners to immediately share and act upon. Once again, these can be tailored to the branding and design needs of our partners.
What information problems do you or your entity need help solving? What information do you need to start actionable steps towards your organization’s goals?
Do you or your organization have information problems you need help solving? Contact the ILLAPS Research Director Dr. AJ Simmons (firstname.lastname@example.org) to better understand how our expert team of staff, contractors, and faculty can help move your organization forward in meaningful ways with data driven decisions.