Why should Meeting Centres be collecting data?
Data collection can often be overlooked as the difficult or time-consuming side of work that gets in the way of actually delivering a service such as a Meeting Centre. However, data can be a very powerful tool that is important at many levels.
- It can help to improve your Meeting Centre for your members and family carers. By collecting some very simple information about people’s interests, abilities, likes and dislikes, you will be able to tailor your Meeting Centre activities to make them enjoyable and meaningful for everyone involved. You can also make any necessary adaptations to ensure everyone can engage with activities. Getting feedback on your Meeting Centre can help to identify aspects that are working well or may need a bit of refinement, as well as giving people the opportunity to suggest new ideas for you to consider. You probably pick up on this sort of information all the time without realising it, but sometimes having a form or process that’s a bit more formal can make it easier as people may feel more comfortable doing this than saying it to you directly.
- It can support your funding bids. All of the data we suggest you collect has been asked for in one way or another when Meeting Centres have written bids to apply for funding. You might know that on average 12 people attend your Meeting Centre each day you’re open, but if you can say that over the course of a year you’ve actually supported 50 people that’s a lot more powerful. Being able to demonstrate the impact of your Meeting Centre is also important as it helps to strengthen your case to say why your Meeting Centre needs to continue operating. You don’t need to overload people with numbers, but having some hard data to show an improvement in quality of life could carry a lot of weight.
- Add to the wider evidence base around Meeting Centres. As well as being useful for you at a local level, if you can collect data that can be combined with data collected by other Meeting Centres across the UK, you’re helping to strengthen the existing evidence base for Meeting Centres. You could draw on this if you wanted to show the wider impact of Meeting Centres to support your own Meeting Centre, but it could also be important for people looking to start their own Meeting Centre. They can show how well Meeting Centres are working elsewhere and what impact they are having, which could strengthen their case to apply for their own funding.
So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth collecting data, it really is!
What data should Meeting Centres be collecting?
As mentioned in the previous section the data we suggest you collect is all information that has helped on funding bids, so it’s not about collecting data for the sake of it. It falls into a few key areas as outlined below:
- Information about members and carers – this will help you to get to know people and tailor the support you provide. It’s basic demographic information, abilities and preferences, so a bit like a membership form when someone first joins your Meeting Centre.
- Attendance – this will help you to show how many people attend your Meeting Centre each day, but also lets you see how many people you’ve supported over a period of time. This is essentially like a register for each day you are open, which will also be useful in terms of health and safety and knowing who is in the building in case of a fire.
- Impact – this looks at different outcomes such as health, loneliness and mental wellbeing which should make it possible to see how those aspects change for people as a result of attending your Meeting Centre.
- Satisfaction – this is feedback on your Meeting Centre to help you identify what is working well, where there is room for improvement, or if people are encountering any problems.
- Context of the Meeting Centre – this provides an overview of your Meeting Centre but also your locality to help illustrate how your Meeting Centre fits with local community. It covers things like demographics of the local population, dementia diagnosis rates, transport issues, and your opening times and fees.
- Case studies – these capture real life examples of people attending Meeting Centres to show impact in a way that others can relate to. While data and numbers are important, sometimes it’s just as useful to have an account written in someone’s own words.
That might sound like quite a lot of data to some people, so if you find it easier to introduce it in manageable stages we suggest focusing on the data that is most important to your Meeting Centre and building up from there.
How can Meeting Centres collect data?
There are two aspects relating to how you collect data. The first is which forms you use to capture the data, and the second is how you get people to fill in those forms.
Depending on your Meeting Centre, you may already have your own forms or processes in place, and that’s fine. This page pulls together a number of forms to show how you could capture different types of data.
- Membership booklets for members and carers. These are suggested forms in case you don’t already have something in place, but you can adapt them to meet your needs and make sure they capture the right information.
- Attendance form. Again this is a suggested form and is essentially a template daily register to enable you to know who has attended your Meeting Centre on which day.
- Monthly summary form. This form pulls together the information captured in the previous forms and presents it in a standard and anonymous format.
- Impact booklets for members and carers. These forms contain short, validated measures, with members and carers completing slightly different measures.
- Satisfaction booklets for members and carers. These forms contain questions aimed at obtaining feedback about what members and carers do at your Meeting Centre.
- Satisfaction booklet for volunteers. This form can help you find out what volunteers think about being part of the Meeting Centre
- Context template and example. These forms provide a format for capturing information about your Meeting Centre and local area, with a completed example for Leominster Meeting Centre.
- Case study prompts and example. These forms provide a series of prompts to elicit information from members and carers, with a completed example to show how the information could be presented.
It is worth bearing in mind that in order for data from the impact and satisfaction booklets to be used in the Meeting Centre research project, consent forms need to be completed. The key things to note are:
- All members and carers need to have the opportunity to see the information sheet.
- If a member or carer has capacity to provide consent for themselves, they need to complete a consent form.
- If a member cannot consent for themselves, a carer/family member can act as a consultee and give consent on their behalf. They will need to complete both of the following forms.
How you use the forms is up to you. You need to work out what is best for your staff/volunteers and your members and carers. Some options to consider are:
- Whether you want to use printed paper copies or get them set up on a laptop or tablet so that they are filled in via a screen.
- Whether people would prefer to be given the forms to take away, read through and complete by themselves in their own time and return them to the Meeting Centre later on, or whether it would be better to sit down with individuals and work through them together.
- Related to this, whether you want to try and do one form at a time or try and encourage a member or carer to complete an impact booklet and a satisfaction booklet in one go while you’ve got some time with them.
There is no right or wrong way to do this, and it might depend on the individual you’re working with, so you need to be flexible in your approach. However you choose to try, you need to be aware of how the other person is feeling and be prepared to take a break or try again on a different day if they become annoyed or upset.
When should Meeting Centres collect data?
When and how often you should be collecting data depends on the type of data, so unfortunately there’s no nice easy answer. Instead, we need to consider it on a case-by-case basis:
- Information about members and carers – This is essentially a ‘one-off’ activity when people join your Meeting Centre, but actually it’s got an ongoing element to it. You’ll start finding out and picking up on information when you first meet a new member or carer, which might be before they even start at the Meeting Centre. You might also continue to learn new information as you get to know people and feel that it’s important to record in their booklet. People’s circumstances may change over time, which is also worth capturing. If you choose to complete the booklet in one go, or at least the bulk of it, make sure that you do it at a time that the member or carer feels comfortable.
- Attendance – You should be recording who attends your Meeting Centre every day that you are open. You also need to be completing the summary on a monthly basis.
- Impact – This data needs to be collected soon after people start attending your Meeting Centre to act as a baseline or comparison measure of ‘life without Meeting Centres’. It then needs to be collected again from the same people at fairly regular intervals such as every 6 months (approximately) to allow any changes to be seen over time.
- Satisfaction – You’ve got a bit of time before you have to think about this one, as you can’t really ask people what they think about your Meeting Centre when they’ve only just joined. You need to let people get used to the Meeting Centre, so you might want to tie it in with the 6-monthly repeats of the impact measures. Hopefully you’ll be picking up on what people do or don’t like on an ongoing basis anyway, but repeating these measures at a regular interval provides a more formal way of capturing that feedback.
- Context of the Meeting Centre – This is another one-off activity and it’s better to do it sooner rather than later so that all the information about your Meeting Centre is captured in one place. You’ll need to remember to update it though if any of that information changes, so it should be seen as a living document.
- Case studies – Each case study is a one-off activity, but you’ll probably find it useful to have a few case studies overall. When you look at developing a case study will depend on your members and carers. You may identify someone fairly early on who is willing to work with you on a case study, or it may take several months before anyone is ready to be involved. There is no particular timescale for this, but if you want to use a case study to support any funding bids you’ll need to factor in the time needed to collect and format the information.
Who should be involved in collecting data?
We’re aware that Meeting Centres don’t necessarily have many staff and/or volunteers, so deciding who gets involved in data collection is going to depend very much on each individual Meeting Centre. Things to consider include:
- If any of your staff or volunteers have a particular interest in being involved, or indeed an aversion to it.
- If any of your staff or volunteers have skills that could be useful such as organisational skills, knowledge of Excel if you want to collate your attendance data, or a particularly good way of working with people and putting them at ease.
- Whether you want to make it the responsibility of one or two key people so that it becomes a regular part of their role, or whether you get everyone involved in some way.
- Whether you want to try and find funding to employ an additional member of staff who would have data collection as part of their job description.
What do Meeting Centres do with the data once they’ve got it?
First and foremost, the data is for your benefit, so you should be able to make use of it. Keeping track of your attendance data will enable you to monitor changes over time and spot if someone’s pattern of attendance alters, which could be a sign of an emerging issue. You may also be able to spot potential problems by looking at the impact and satisfaction forms, allowing you to consider whether the support you provide needs to be adjusted in any way. Your context and case study data should be kept as supporting information for any promotional or funding activities.
As one of the main reasons for collecting data is to add to the evidence base around Meeting Centres, it’s important that your data is combined with data from other Meeting Centres. To do this, it needs to be returned to the Association for Dementia Studies (ADS) via email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) or in the post using the FREEPOST address which can be found on the front cover of some of the booklets. We don’t need to see copies of all the booklets, but the ones we do need are:
- Monthly summary form
- Impact booklets for members and carers
- Satisfaction booklets for members and carers
- Consent and consultee forms for members and carers
- Context of your Meeting Centre
- Case studies
You can either send them through as and when they are completed, or gather them together and send them in bulk every three or six months depending on what works best for you. Once we’ve got the data we can carry out any relevant analysis and see how Meeting Centres are working across the UK. If you need information to support any funding bids or to input into progress reports, we can provide that for you on request. This can either be about your individual Meeting Centre or across the pool of Meeting Centres more generally.
Summary of the data collection process
We realise that this can seem like quite a lot of information to take in, so hopefully the following table provides a handy summary of everything. If you have any queries around data or would like a short online session to talk you through any of it, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).