Data walk in Conway County, September 2019

Data is at the root of every Excel by Eight (E8) Community planning process. One key component that guides our local steering committees’ work: public input from parents, educators, health professionals, and other residents. We rely on them to flag potential areas of concern, so we can set comprehensive strategies for improving child outcomes. So, how do E8 Communities gather this vital feedback? We use community outreach, such as data walks. Jessi Rice, Community Consultant, explains more:

First, what is a data walk?

Data points are extremely helpful, but they don’t tell the whole story. That’s why we look at them in context with public input. As the name suggests, data walks are gallery-style presentations of statistics related to boxes on the E8 resource grid. We present initial data to participants and ask them to react. This helps us better understand where children are excelling and where we may need to shore up local resources. During COVID-19, we’ve had to be creative with virtual data walks. It’s been effective, but we’re looking forward to hosting in-person events later this year to gather additional feedback from E8 communities.

What type of information does the steering committee gather at these events? 

Once we present initial data, including from the Early Development Instrument, participants tell us about their experiences related to those issues. This may include identifying existing resources, community-based solutions, or even a lack thereof. Perhaps most importantly, we hear what they are concerned or surprised about and what areas of the E8 resource grid they consider the most important.

How does this type of community engagement aid the overall E8 planning process?

The information helps us determine where we can make the most impact locally. Participants’ responses are coded, entered into a database, and then sorted to identify areas of interest and quantify anecdotal feedback. Our E8 steering committees then analyze the results, work to identify root causes, set priorities, and develop targeted goals.

What should residents in E8 Communities do if they can’t attend a data walk but want to offer their input?

We recommend individuals who live or work in E8 communities reach out to their designated consultant or regional coordinator for one-on-one discussions: Reginald Ballard ( for Monroe and Union counties; Jessi Rice ( for Conway, Independence, and Pulaski counties; and Whitney Tatum ( for Sevier County.