Building a Data Practice

Taking a Strategic and Collaborative Approach

Soul 2 Soul Sisters’™ love-based revolution centers Black liberation as a response to anti-Black violence through eradicating white supremacy, actualizing reparations as healing & economic justice, building Black political power, and advocating for Black beloveds’ right to make decisions about our lives, bodies, and futures.

With strong roots in Colorado, Soul 2 Soul Sisters was looking at how to scale the organization’s programs and services. Laying the groundwork for its data practice would be a top priority. As a small team lacking an in-house data expert, they partnered with a ResultsLab Impact Manager, a consultant supporting nonprofit data projects on a fractional basis. This would allow Soul 2 Soul Sisters to access a specialist’s expertise, with more flexibility, while advancing their data strategy, tools, and action plan to support the organization’s learning and the sustainability of its data practices.


Together, ResultsLab and Soul 2 Soul Sisters would work to build a data practice that would help Soul 2 Soul:

  1. Use data to better understand its participants
  2. Use data to better meet the needs of its community

“The data we have is siloed and formatted in a way that’s hard to make meaning of. There’s an opportunity to create more alignment around what we collect, and then making that data more accessible for our teams to use.”
– Courtney Anika, Associate Director at Soul 2 Soul Sisters

The Challenge

Siloed data, and ad-hoc practices that made it difficult to pull together the story of Soul 2 Soul Sisters impact.

The Solution

ACT Strategy Series + Impact Manager: A strategic approach to build the tools, plans and processes for Soul 2 Soul Sisters data practice.

The Results

A data practice that helped Soul 2 Soul Sisters tell its impact story, support organizational learning, and could be carried forward by internal staff.

The Impact Manager work with Soul 2 Soul Sisters was carried out in three phases.

  1. Strategy: ACT Series Workshop
  2. Implementation: Participant-Centered and Accessible Data Tools
  3. Data Use: Action and Sustainability


Strategy: ACT Series Workshop

Before creating any data tools or systems, Soul 2 Soul Sisters needed to understand the “why” and “how” that would support its data practice. To get there, ResultsLab facilitated a series of workshops with Soul 2 Soul Sisters to align the organization around the strategy that would anchor its data practice.

Throughout these workshops, we worked together to develop the following:

  • Customized Impact Strategy: Explaining how Soul 2 Soul Sisters creates change in its community.
  • Measurement Strategy:
    • Answering critical questions around the organization’s data practice: Why is Soul 2 Soul Sisters collecting data? How will Soul 2 Soul Sisters collect data? What will Soul 2 Soul Sisters collect data around?
    • Defining the organization’s Learning Agenda*, and the core learning questions that Soul 2 Soul Sisters data practice would center around.
  • Data Use Strategy: Identifying the optimal ways to share data, learnings, and insights for Soul 2 Soul Sisters unique audiences.

Implementation: Participant-Centered and Accessible Data Tools

Having an aligned strategy to center around, Soul 2 Soul Sisters was able to move into the next phase of the Impact Manager work.

First, we created a Measurement Plan to identify the specific pieces of data that were needed to answer the core learning questions defined in our strategy workshops. This Measurement Plan was essential to help Soul 2 Soul Sisters understand the data most critical to their data practice.

From there we could create the data collection and visualization tools that were oriented around the specific pieces of data identified in the Measurement Plan.

When creating the data collection tools, Soul 2 Soul Sisters emphasized the importance for these tools to be participant-centered. Moving away from the standard data collection tools, we designed tools that allowed for artistic expression, and tools that allowed both Soul 2 Soul Sisters staff and participants to immediately see visualizations of responses for collective sense-making. This work increased Soul 2 Soul Sisters ability to collect data with ease and better respond to community needs.

In addition to the data collection tools, we developed a dashboard to bring data together in a visual way to help answer a core learning question identified in the strategy phase of this work. We didn’t want to build within a system that would add additional expenses for the organization, nor that would require extensive training for the team to become familiarized with. After exploring various options, we developed the dashboard in Google Sheets. This allowed for easier navigation, transparency of data, and the ability to integrate into the Soul 2 Soul Sisters existing systems.

With this dashboard, Soul 2 Soul Sisters had a tool that made it easier to access its data and improve its ability to tell the story of the organization.

Data Use: Action and Sustainability

The final phase of the Impact Manager work focused on making use of the data. We developed and facilitated a Data Use Session with Soul 2 Soul Sisters. The session reviewed and created actionable strategies from the data collected in the previous phase of our work. This session used the Emergent Learning framework to take data from reflection to action. As part of this phase, we also developed materials and automatically updated templates that Soul 2 Soul Sisters could take forward to repeat Data Use Sessions internally as they continue to develop their data practice, improving its ability to share the organization’s impact and respond to community needs.


Through this process, Soul 2 Soul Sisters went beyond collecting data. The team collectively worked together to create a strategic and formalized approach to better understand the participants of their programs. An approach that laid the foundation for making data-informed decisions, building trust within its communities, and strengthening its culture of learning.

“Having an Impact Manager was extremely helpful to support our data impact needs and to give us the tools we need to move forward sustainably.”
– Courtney Anika, Associate Director at Soul 2 Soul Sisters

Key Takeaways: 

  • Have a strategy in place. If you’re an organization that’s beginning to build out or refine your data practice, start with strategy first. This will help anchor the tools you create so that they are both meaningful and useful. Without a strategy, your data practice can quickly become siloed or one-off efforts that are disconnected from the organization’s impact story.
  • Align data tools with your core values. It’s tempting to default to the standard data collection methods like surveys, or think you need a fancy software like Tableau for your data visualizations. If building for accessibility, right-size the tool to where your organization is at now. If building to establish community trust, develop tools that include participants in shared sense-making. Be creative!
  • Make data accessible to your team through dashboards or regular data use sessions. The key is getting data in front of your team to make data-informed decisions and embedding continuous learning into the operations of your organization.

Does data feel like a big undertaking, and your team is stretched too thin to take on? Learn more about ResultsLab Impact Manager, and discover how to strengthen your data practice, while easing the burden on your team.