Demographic data and the population characteristics often drive initial program design and creation. Updating our understanding of these data can help us to reinvigorate a program by showing the continued relevance of the program to the community we serve, or to adjust the program by seeing the changed landscape.
The information age has brought changes to expectations and practice of youth work. One important change has been the amount of data available. Secondary data sources abound and concerns about lack of community information have been replaced by concerns about how to use the copious amounts of it we have. Here are some ways to approach the dearth and abundance of data.
Five ways to use demographic data to rejuvenate your program
- Identify ways the community has changed since the program started.
Minnesota, like many states, is undergoing major demographic shifts. One example is the shift in poverty. Minnesota Compass found that in 2013 children age 0-4 have one of the highest poverty rates in Minnesota. What demographic shifts have impacted the youth you serve?
- Strengthen financial support by identifying demographic trends that support your programming efforts.
The story of your program can not be told with data alone. However, funders are demanding more quantitative data to support their funding decisions. Secondary data sources can reduce your data collection budget and provide evidence for the assertion that your program meets community youth needs.
- Put some facts to the trends you are noticing in the youth you serve.
Maybe you notice that the female high school students in your program seem significantly more stressed than their male counterparts. Should your stress-resolution workshop target young women more than young men? The 2010 Minnesota Student Survey gives county- or school district-level information on stress in 9th and 12th graders, divided by gender.
- Identify which parts of the community your program reaches.
Does your program reach the communities that most need your services? What communities are being missed?
- Connect with other communities that may replicate the program.
How are your community's demographics similar to or different from the next county or the next school district? Frequently, the similarities you find can help you make the case that your program could help in another community as well.
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