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How Public Profit Set Up a Structure for Success

Oakland-based Public Profit is a leading evaluation firm. Their team has a well-earned reputation for helping mission-driven organizations measure and manage their work.

Until 2018, Public Profit used SPSS and Excel. But, as a forward-looking organization, they knew it was time to move to R. As Associate Director Ava Elliott describes it, the decision came with some anxiety. 

Being consultants, we need to be able to work quickly and efficiently in highly interdependent teams, something that we did well using SPSS. We had years of shared syntax, systems, and norms built around this data analysis software that allowed us to meet constant deadlines in a busy evaluation consulting business. 

Working with Public Profit over the course of a year as part of a custom training, I helped them not only use, but truly embrace, R. Public Profit succeeded in transitioning to R because they set up four key structures to support their team in the transition

  1. They used a pilot team, who then helped mentor other team members. 

  2. They created norms and best practices for how their team would use R. 

  3. They ensured accountability by identifying “a real dataset for each person, across all roles, to clean and analyze in R for a real external deadline.”

  4. And, to keep things fun, they hosted regular R parties where team members shared tips and tricks they had learned. 

The transition to R has come with major benefits for Public Profit. For example, they conduct a multi-site evaluation of an afterschool program, and need to produce one report for each of the nearly 100 schools where the program takes place. In a teaching session using data from this program, I demonstrated how they could use parameterized reporting in RMarkdown to automatically produce the nearly 100 reports. Being able to do this was so exciting that one staff member who had been an R skeptic exclaimed, “Ok, as of today I am officially team R!”

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