A Value-Driven Approach to Building Data Infrastructures: The Example of the MidWest Collaborative

In this Effective Policy Learning article, Jessica Cunningham, Executive Director of KYStats, Anna Hui, Director at the Missouri Department of Labor, Julia Lane, Director of the Coleridge Initiative, and George W. Putnam, Director of Labor Market Information at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, explain how a regional collaborative of states in the Midwest have joined forces to share education, training, and workforce data across states lines. Overcoming numerous legal and privacy hurdles, the states have established an ongoing governance structure using a secure platform to greatly increase the value of their data to policymakers. In the process, they have built state capacity to continue to support evidence-based policymaking. The multi-state products that have been developed, along with the ongoing training in data linkages have served the states particularly well as they have had to respond quickly to the need for accurate and timely data during the COVID pandemic.

In this article we describe a new approach to building data infrastructures driven by state and local needs. We spell out how a collaborative effort among a subset of states managed to close data gaps by establishing a regional initiative grounded in producing value and focused on using evidence to improve education, training, and workforce outcomes. We hope that the lessons learned can help inform other entities seeking to share data, whether they be cities, counties, or nations.

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