3 steps of data collection

Data collection takes place in three steps:

  1. In the first step, you create a data collection plan: When do you need what data?
  2. In the second step, you identify the appropriate data sources.
  3. In the third step, you actually collect the data.

Step 1: Create a data-collection plan

The data-collection plan helps you structure, plan and oversee your monitoring process.

You can find a template for structuring the data-collection process for download here.

Step 2: Identify data sources

Before you collect individual data elements, you must first determine what data for which individual indicator can be collected from what sources. For each IndicatorThe term 'indicator' originates from the latin term indicare, which you may translate with show something. Indicators deliver a reference to an event or a fact, which is not directly observable. Indicators are indispensable for measuring complex matters for monitoring and evaluation reasons. indicator, you’ll need at least one data source.

Data sources are above all members of the target group and other stakeholders, as well as internal and external documents.

Helpful questions in this context include:

  • Does the source provide high-quality data?
  • Is the data source easily accessible, and can it be regularly accessed?
  • Are the costs of accessing the data reasonable?
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Once you’ve identified a data source in this way, you must determine the method by which you’ll collect the information.

Step 3: Collect data

You have two options: You can make use of existing data, or collect new data.

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  • Using existing data

A considerable amount of information is already available. In addition to data from external sources, such as official statistics and surveys, you can often also use information that already exists within your organization.

This can be found in project documentation and other documents, evaluations and annual reports, information handouts for participants, registration forms, and especially in project staffers’ heads. Staffers are an essential source of information, and should for this reason alone be involved from the beginning in the process of analyzing social impact (read more under "learning and steering").

  • Collecting new data

If the existing data isn’t enough, or no relevant data yet exists, you’ll have to create your own. To this end, you have several possibilities. The approach you choose will depend on the resources available to you, but also particularly on the scope and level of detail you need for the information.

In the next chapter we provide an overview on the different methods which you may want to use to collect your data.

  • Avoid graveyards of data!

    Don’t slow things down by gathering excessive data! There’s no use in collecting mountains of data when nobody has the capacity to evaluate it. Consider carefully in advance theinformation you really need.