Usually, when you are trying to determine facts about the problem, the information is already out there, in one form or another. If you’ve looked, though, and are absolutely sure that the information you need just isn’t there, it’s time to create it yourself. To do so, you’ll still need to go through the ten steps listed above, except for number five; but in addition, you will want to do the following:

1. Identify the method of collecting information that is best suited to your purpose.  Different methods that are often used include:

2. Decide if you want to inform the public of what you are doing.

And if you decide that it is tactically wise, then let people know what you are doing from the start. (You will probably want to update them during and after the process as well.) You might consider writing a press release to do so. Include key facts that you have gathered from earlier data. For example, you might say, “In 1990, the teen pregnancy rate in Godnaw County was 26 girls out of every 1000, or 2.6%. The Godnaw County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is in the process of finding out how this figure has changed in the last eight years.”

Remember, though, that when you tell people what you are doing, they will usually have questions. So be prepared with a clear process for responding to any queries or concerns that might arise.

3. Train the people who will be collecting the information.

Sending poorly trained staff members or volunteers to collect new information can cause serious problems and lead to results that are unhelpful at best. At worst, this can invalidate all of the time and effort you spent trying to determine the information. The manner in which questions are asked, who is asked, and even when they are asked can have a huge impact on the results you receive. So train your information collectors before you start.

4. Collect and tabulate your data.

Although this can take a while, as mentioned before, if you have done all the steps leading up to this, you’re once again at the easy part. Good luck!

5. Report (and use) your findings.

Even if you decided during the planning process to wait to go public with your findings, you will still probably discuss them with members of your group right away. You might ask everyone at a staff meeting to talk about how this new information will change their individual projects, or work together to rewrite the project plan.

In any case, be sure to use the information you have found, don’t just file it away somewhere!

6. Continue to review and collect information on a regular basis.

Unless you’re planning to conduct a short intervention or initiative and then leave town, you’ll need to update the information you have. Communities and conditions change, and you can’t assume that what’s true today will still be true in six months or a year. If the data you have is more than a year old, it’s simply not reliable. You have to plan to keep collecting data for the long term.