6. Collecting Useful Information /

6.1 Deciding what information to collect


We know what information we should collect.

To meet the standard in full, you have identified the most important and useful information to collect. The information is linked to your performance measures and meets your reporting needs. You have considered both quantitative data (numbers) and qualitative data (for example, case studies) that might be helpful.

Before rushing ahead to collect data, it’s sensible to take some time to ensure you are collecting the right data, and no more than you will need.

The planned outcomes and performance indicators of your social enterprise will inform the level and type of data you will need to collect. So, a great starting point is to look at each performance indicator in turn and list the types of data you could use to measure and track progress.

There are many types of data to consider, including data that you could gather about the characteristics of your customers or beneficiaries, their engagement in your activities, their experience and satisfaction with your work, and the results that arise for them.<

Broadly, the data that you collect can be described as either:

  • Quantitative data (numbers) that helps answer the questions ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘how many’. This data allows you to make numerical statements about the occurrence of views, attitudes and experiences, to measure difference between groups over time, and to establish patterns and causal links.
  • Qualitative data refers to any data that is not numerical. It may include open-ended responses to questionnaires, data from interviews or focus groups, or responses in other creative forms such as photographs, pictures or videos. It seeks to understand in depth why and how change happens.

When it comes to assessing performance and impact, both qualitative and quantitative data can be collected side by side.

When considering your data needs, it is common to start with a “wish list” of things that you would like to collect and which might prove useful. But it’s usually best to narrow your focus, prioritize, and limit the amount of data you plan to collect. Course 6 in the Impact Practice series from the Social Enterprise Institute shows you how.

When identifying the data you will need to collect, take time to consult with your board, staff team and funders. This can help to identify the main pieces of information they will need to do their work, understand your impact, and improve on it.

Remember, the more indicators you select, the more the measurement effort will be required. It’s often best to start off in a modest way and extend your data collection systems later if necessary.

Also, as far as possible, consider ways that you can build any data you are already collecting within your social enterprise. It’s sensible to carry out a quick review of the data already available to you, how it fits with any planned outcomes and indicators, how you are using the data (if at all), and where there are gaps.