The Aligning Systems for Health project was created in part to help collaboratives move past short-term initiatives and toward long-term systems changes that improve community well-being in sustainable ways. From the beginning, there have been frequent calls for tools to measure aligning. Measurement is recognized as having a connection to learning and growth.

Measurement can be difficult, and while it can be a powerful tool, it also comes with challenges. This section discusses reasons people have given to avoid measurement, followed by reasons that measurement is worthwhile for collaboratives and those wishing to align systems for community well-being.

Measurement Risks

There are several reasons some people may avoid assessments of their collaboratives. For example, measurement may involve resource risks. Measurement usually requires resources. Resource requirements may be significant, involving many people and substantial money. Some may not feel that measurement is necessary, sufficiently illuminating, or worthwhile. There may be cases where it is appropriate to focus resources elsewhere. Further, if an assessment does not paint a sufficiently flattering light on an aligning effort, funding may dry up. Measurement can pose existential risks to work that many people view as important.

Data may also be used in bad faith or have ill consequences. Data can be twisted, and it is easily misinterpreted. It can be difficult to contextualize and challenging to analyze or interpret. Some forms of analyses require specialized skills, and taking lessons from them relies on faith that the analysis is conducted well and the interpretation is accurate. There have been cases where people in marginalized groups, including racial and ethnic minority groups, have been systematically exploited in the name of research or painted in an unfair light through poor data analysis, decontextualized findings, or bad-faith data interpretation.

Significant portions of the TEAM are dedicated to helping people mitigate these risks. For example, the TEAM encourages users to consider the risks with their partners, especially those who will be most affected by the work. In the end, however, there is inherently a human element to measurement, and no measurement system can fully remove all associated risks. Thus, human users must play a part in addressing those risks.

Helpful and Potentially Powerful Uses for Measurement

Measurement can be an important tool for helping participants better understand current aligning efforts. Whatever your background or role is in a collaborative, there are many things you can do with data. Some examples include:

  • Bringing new ideas to collaboratives and aligning efforts
  • Anticipating and identifying challenges, gaps, and opportunities
  • Building consensus on key issues
  • Promoting self-reflection in collaboratives
  • Promoting learning across the whole field of people working in health collaboratives
  • Clarifying concrete objectives for collaborative processes and outcomes
  • Targeting benchmarks
  • Identifying successes
  • Holding yourself accountable
  • Holding others accountable
  • Connecting to a broader community of people aligning across sectors and measuring their efforts

The TEAM is designed to help with all of these. Note also that the TEAM is intended to continually evolve, and you can be a part of future iterations of the TEAM. Click here for more information.

To help think about how you and others can start using the TEAM, it is helpful to think about the different roles that people play in collaboratives and how people in those roles might find measurement useful. See Who Should Use the TEAM? and What are the four parts of the TEAM?.

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