Cancer Pathways - storing and visualizing survey data


Cancer Happens is a cancer education and risk reduction program provided free of charge to middle schools and high schools nationwide. Student surveys are handed out before and after presentations to classrooms testing the students’ knowledge across a wide variety of cancer-related topics.

The goal of this collaboration is to help Cancer Pathways better organize and leverage student survey results for the Cancer Happens program to get both a clearer understanding of program impact as well as identify potential areas of program improvement.

Over the course of 6 weeks, Ten-Forward built a data processing pipeline on top of G Suite. The input - raw student survey results, the output - live dashboards dissecting various aspects of the program, from cancer prevention actions the students will do as a direct result of the presentations to finding knowledge gaps across various cancer topics.

1: design

The first deliverable: a process map clearly outlining activities that all involved parties perform in successful program implementation - from Cancer Pathways employees to the students. This is a crucial step in identifying necessary data to track in the new system as well as ensuring that both parties have a shared understanding of the program. We firmly believe that nonprofits understand their problem spaces the best - building the process map is a key piece in making sure that we have the right context before we dive into building solutions.

group photo with Cancer Happens program director

<Cancer Pathways Program Director - Mary - and us on the first day of project kickoff>

Working alongside Cancer Pathways’ program director, we were able to identify 5 key use cases for the visualizations. Clear understanding of key processes coupled with vital visualization use cases formed the basis for a solid foundation in designing what data should be stored and how it is best structured.
planning database schema on whiteboard

<The first pass (of many) at how data might be best stored to support Cancer Pathways’ use cases>

2: build

Clear data definitions are the precursor to determining inputs and outputs of the data processing pipeline. As raw student survey data is entered into Google Sheets, completed sets of survey results are moved into a Google Drive folder, where every night, all the raw survey responses are processed and transformed/aggregated as needed across 6 different resulting spreadsheets. These final spreadsheets were designed to fulfill the specific use cases that were discussed in the previous phase.

screenshot example of student survey sheet headers

<An example of headers from the raw survey response spreadsheet>

With data correctly flowing into the right places thanks to the data processing pipeline, the final piece of build was creating up-to-date, interactive, and mobile-friendly visualizations.

There are many different data visualization tools, and picking the right one is highly dependent on the use cases of the organization and the current toolkit they are employing. In the case of the Cancer Happens program, the cost of the tool, ease of use, integration with Google Suite, and their stage of data maturity led us to recommend Google Data Studio.

one of the example visualizations Cancer Pathways asked for one of the example visualizations Cancer Pathways asked for - mobile version

3: support

Changing processes isn’t always easy, and in the month following the program, we provided a month of free support to aid in a smooth transition.

In addition to general support, we also hosted a 2-hour workshop on Google Data Studio for the Cancer Pathways employees. This was a mixture of building example visualizations from scratch as well as sitting down with them and helping them explore visualizations they’ve had in mind for the latter half of the workshop. In-person training in the visualization tool is to ensure that they can continue to build on top of the framework we’ve laid out.

A completely new system also meant a completely new workflow -- with this in mind, we created a documentation site using Google Sites with explanations of all the sheets, tutorials for common patterns, and guides for troubleshooting issues.

screenshot of internal cancer happens documentation site

<Documentation surrounding the new workflow, accessible only to users with emails>

the impact

The effects of a new workflow (especially one that introduces new tools) aren't always immediate. We'll be taking follow-up surveys every 6 months asking about the long-term effects of changes in internal program evaluations. Check back (or subscribe to our mailing list!) as we update this page with results from our impact survey. In the meantime, here are some quotes we've gotten from the Cancer Happens team in our post-consult satisfaction survey:

“very well built database, great communication and response”

“you have helped us elevate our data entry process and analysis, which has enhanced our entire program!”

“Jessi and Marianne are incredibly skilled at what they do. They are also easy to work with and go above and beyond.”

“I have never had a higher level (or speed!) of comprehensive customer support from any vendor or partner than we have received from Ten Forward. Hands down the best, most innovative, supportive, and genuine vendor I have ever worked with. Can't thank Ten Forward enough for their work that transformed our program and enabled us to elevate it to the next level.”