Data Sharing -- Where to Start?

June 15, 2019

There are a few essential building blocks when embarking upon data sharing. These include:

  • Partnership and trust: Data sharing is as relational as it is technical, and moves at the speed of trust. If your agency is interested in accessing and linking TANF data with other administrative data, it's important that you engage potential partner agency staff early and often.
  • Data governance: Policies and procedures help institutional trust and ensure ethical data use so that all partner agencies contributing data can rest assured that they are fulfilling their important role as data stewards. See our overview of data governance activities to help keep partners on track throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Legal and data security: As partner agencies develop a shared understanding of the structures and processes that will govern and enable data integration, their legal counsel should document the most important of these components in legal agreements, along with rigorous data security requirements. If you're struggling in executing data sharing agreements, check out our tips for addressing common legal concerns and myths and our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) inventory checklist.
  • Data management and analytic infrastructure: No one benefits from creating an elaborate dataset that is not used. Agencies should only seek to link data elements that are both relevant to the social problem at hand and of sufficient quality to provide insight. That means you'll need to define "data quality" and then establish strategies by which quality may be built into the processes of measurement, collection, record transfer, and analysis. This will require continued exchange between those who are building the data model (generally agency analysts and technologists) and those who work most closely with the data day-to-day (generally practitioners and program staff).
  • Economic and political stability: The more that agencies are able to demonstrate the impact of linked data on agency practice and client outcomes, the better the chances that data sharing staffing, infrastructure, and legal agreements will survive leadership changes.

TDC provides support to get this process started. Contact us with questions.