Making the Most of the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative
In this case, lessons from the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative illustrate key principles of collaborative action and the importance of using data to achieve SMART goals. In 2015, the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative (CBC) was a network of seven agencies in Chicago, Illinois, serving 12,000 low-income residents. Each of the agencies had early childhood, school-age children, and adult education programs. At the prompting of the Chicago Community Trust, they came together to (1) benchmark their education programs outputs and outcomes; (2) learn and share best practices through developing a common set of metrics and measurements and implementing these measurements into a case management software system; and (3) share the costs of the case management software system to be used for program evaluation and continuous quality improvement. Three aspects of CBC are particularly noteworthy. First, there are no joint program activities or clients among these agencies. Their exchange is limited to sharing data and other information. This makes CBC distinct from collaborations formed to begin a program or to advocate for a policy. Second, the group requires each agency to enter data on a timely basis and to set SMART goals based on the data reports. The agencies are held mutually accountable for their work to achieve their own SMART goals during the year and report on progress. Third, CBC used monetary incentives to ensure that data entry and SMART goal action remained a priority for each agency.