Boosting Institutional Data Collection through Community Centric Design

Ari Betof
Mission and Data
Published in
5 min readMay 23, 2023


Mike Kegler, Senior Data Architecture and Visualization Consultant
Mission & Data

Many institutions understand the value of data when it comes to realizing their mission. Fewer have a practical plan for how to collect data outside of typical areas like enrollment, billing, and fundraising. If leaders are mindful of improving the experience of their community members, schools can solve challenges posed by everyday operations and gather valuable strategic data at the same time.

Top-Down vs Bottom-Up Data Collection: What’s in it for the end user?

Several years ago, a school I worked for faced a challenge: They had received a sizable grant to bolster professional development (PD), but pulling together high level data on where their faculty members were going, what they were learning, and how much it was costing was time consuming and arduous. At the same time, to apply for a professional development opportunity, faculty would have to fill out a paper form by hand, obtain numerous signatures, and then submit, not knowing the status until the request was eventually approved or denied.

We realized that we could save faculty members hours of time by giving them concise, intuitive online forms instead of lengthy paper ones….And with the resulting data, we could build leaders a vibrant dashboard they could use to help them tell the story of the school’s investment in professional development.

We realized that we could save faculty members hours of time by giving them concise, intuitive online forms instead of lengthy paper ones. We could keep them in the loop on the status of their request and give them a venue to share their thoughts on PD opportunities to help their colleagues. For school leaders, we could make it easier for them to vet requests as they came in and consider budgets and goals before approving or denying requests. And with the resulting data, we could build leaders a vibrant dashboard they could use to help them tell the story of the school’s investment in professional development.

Here’s what the school’s Director of Studies and I set up:

  • A Google Form for requests with dropdowns for conference names, primary themes, location, estimated cost, and other essential information.
  • An inexpensive third party workflow add-on called Form Approvals that would route the request to the relevant decision makers and keep the requestor apprised of the status.
  • An auto-generated confirmation email when a request was approved, along with a pre-filled link to a new electronic travel request form.
  • A follow-up survey after the PD had concluded to gather feedback.
  • A high-level leadership dashboard aggregating the data collected from the forms.

Why did we take this approach? Surely, the initiative was important enough where the head of school could have mandated senior administration and their staff to collect this data. We could have set up tedious data entry forms to collect information, oblivious to the additional burden we were adding to people’s already busy schedules. Instead, we achieved success by shifting the process of data collection from a top-down mandate to a bottom-up exercise by creating incentives for our community members to participate.

This is a compelling example of Community-Centric Design. This approach solves institutional data challenges by meeting the needs of community members and other stakeholders. If school leaders are mindful of easing the bureaucratic responsibilities they put on their team members, they can effectively crowdsource the answers to many of their greatest strategic questions. This isn’t a one-off project: the smartest institutions are constantly iterating, learning their community’s needs, developing solutions, and then getting feedback to make sure they’re meeting those needs. If something isn’t hitting the mark, they don’t hesitate to adjust their approach or build additional tools.

At Mission & Data, we deploy community-centric design to maximize data collection in many areas of a school, including professional development, strategic plan accountability, student academic planning, and curriculum mapping. With curriculum mapping for example, schools must understand the skills needed for a course or subject, create an inventory of when those skills are taught, and visualize how they are reinforced through the sequence of learning. Many schools also want to demonstrate how the curriculum ties in with the institution’s strategic goals or the character traits defined in the Portrait of a Graduate. By creating intuitive and helpful tools that allow their faculty to easily submit course or unit plans, organizations build a sustainable process for collecting this data. When you respect your stakeholders and strive to meet their needs, they will reward you with a treasure trove of information about your school.

To see this approach for yourself, try our Professional Development Request Demo or Curriculum Mapping Demo Tool. To learn more about how you can use community-centric design to streamline and incentivize data collection in your school or organization, contact Mike Kegler at

Mike Kegler is Mission & Data’s Senior Data Architecture and Visualization Consultant. Mike is a former administrator and data visualization faculty member from the Latin School of Chicago, where he was responsible for building dashboards for a variety of audiences, creating self-service tools for students, families, faculty, and staff, and managing academic and demographic data. As a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Mike ensure’s Mission & Data develops a deep understanding of a client’s needs before launching a project. Mike obtained his Master’s Degree in Higher Ed Administration from Northwestern University. He’s a certified user of Tableau, Blackbaud K-12 On, Google Workspace, and many other software systems that streamline and improve school data processes.

Mission & Data is a firm dedicated to the effectiveness, health, and vitality of educational institutions and other organizations that make the world a better place. We are committed to enhancing mission-driven, data-informed leadership and governance by:

  • Consulting to improve organizational effectiveness and facilitate organizational transformation.
  • Developing custom data products, visualizations, and dashboards to highlight progress, identify trends, and leverage actionable insights.
  • Auditing current practices and analyzing organizational data to recommend process efficiencies and strategic improvements.
  • Coaching leaders and boards of trustees to enact institutional vision and build a culture of inquiry-based decision making practices.

If you would like to know more about how Mission & Data can help your organization, please contact us at



Ari Betof
Mission and Data

Co-Founder and Partner at Mission & Data; Husband; Father; Son