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How Do You Deal with the Dilemma of Data Tracking?

Jennifer Shack, February 6th, 2012

So much data, too little time and money. That’s been RSI’s takeaway from courts as we’ve worked with them in Illinois and beyond to develop and improve their ADR programs. We’ve been told one of two things: “We’d love to track our program, but we don’t have anyone who can enter the data.” Or, “We’ve got a whole lot of data, just no way to enter it.” It’s a dilemma we know is difficult to overcome even as we encourage courts to maintain monitoring systems and conduct evaluations so they can keep tabs on how well their program is doing and remain accountable to funders and the public.

We’ve responded to the lack of financial resources by recommending and developing tracking systems that use free or already available software – spreadsheets or Google Forms – that can be easily adapted for use by courts. This doesn’t confront the issue of time, however.  Courts and programs lucky enough to have access to interns can use them to enter data. We have also suggested that programs work with graduate students looking for a good thesis or dissertation topic. They often are willing to collect, enter and analyze data in return for the opportunity to use that data in their research.

The shortage of resources that courts are facing requires creativity in order to do more with less. What creative solutions has your program developed to track and enter data on a budget?

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