Statistical tool helps measure capacity — and builds it, too

A gathering in the Fairfax, Virginia, cluster in March explores questions and lessons learned in implementing the newest version of the Statistical Report Program. Attendees included an Auxiliary Board member; the national, regional and cluster statistics officers; several Area Teaching Committee members; and a training institute board member and coordinators. Photo courtesy of National Statistics Office

When regional teams from across the country assembled for the National Statistics Gathering last summer, it was about more than the mechanics of using a new version of the Statistical Report Program. It was about sharing, encouragement, accompanying each other, and having fun with hands-on learning.

“What was most noticeable was the joy. … You could hear the laughter and the hum of enthusiastic conversation. Of course, regional teams conferred with each other. But these teams reached out across the room to consult further with other regions about what they were discovering. The friends showed loving support to one another,” recounts Elizabeth Herth, the national statistics officer.

That spirit of accompaniment continues to advance, as nearly 300 clusters across the country have begun utilizing SRP version 3.0. The Regional Bahá’í Councils and their statistics officers are hosting consultative spaces for cluster core teams — Auxiliary Board members and assistants, Area Teaching Committees and institute coordinators — on how to introduce the application into the reflection and planning process. They consult over how data is shared and where new opportunities to share data might exist, such as in collaboration with Local Assemblies. In parallel, Herth has visited several key clusters this year to explore what their agencies have learned about implementing the program.

In turn, these clusters increasingly experience the power of keeping track of their capacity for growth — such as where activities are, where the Bahá’í population is, and where friends of the Faith are emerging. And SRP 3.0 is designed not only to gather that information locally, but to make it useful for analysis and planning at the neighborhood, cluster, regional, national and world levels.

This year’s focus of learning is on how clusters and their agencies are gaining strength in gathering, analyzing, and reporting statistics during the reflection and planning processes.

“Everyone has a role to play: the tutor, the participant, the parent who enrolled her child in children’s class, Local Assembly member,” Herth observed. “Gradually we are gaining a culture of sharing information that helps the cluster to advance — to assess capacity and strengthen potential for growth across all activities, populations, and territories.”

The National Statistics Gathering was a microcosm of those principles. Held Aug. 27–28 at the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, it offered accompaniment at a high level, with a member of the World Center Department of Statistics and several Counselors on hand. The National Spiritual Assembly hosted, with several of its members participating and the National Statistics Office orienting participants to the application and facilitating hands-on practices.

All 12 Regional Bahá’í Council secretaries were there, as well as the training institute secretary and regional statistics officer for each region. They studied guidance from the Universal House of Justice on collecting and analyzing accurate statistics, and reflected on using them to aid in the growth of the Faith.

Many had little or no experience in the area and might have felt a bit at sea. Predictably, the group started out relying on the expertise of the Statistics Office staff to answer questions about the principles and practicalities. Before long, though, several regional officers and other participants began to respond to each other’s questions.

That engagement accelerated after the group sat down at computers to try their hand at using mock statistics about Bahá’í community life at cluster and neighborhood levels. They processed data on fictitious families moving into and out of a locality, entered where activities took place, noted who had begun institute courses and who were serving as tutors. Children’s class teachers and junior youth group animators were identified. Activity participants from the wider community were recorded. Attendance numbers for devotionals, Feasts and Holy Days were tabulated.

As people gained capacity, the chatter became livelier. “Everyone participated,” Herth notes. “The Counselors and the members of the National Assembly huddled around computers with the regional teams, working through the scenarios, and together created cluster growth profiles from the data right within the application!”

As data is gathered and usage of SRP 3.0 gains momentum throughout the country, that basic information will continue to be compiled and analyzed at the regional, national and world levels, illuminating strengths and needs — and in turn helping in the formulation of strategies for each stage of growth.

But at the cluster, where it all begins, gathering accurate numbers takes the exercise of spiritual strengths. “You can’t just sit in the comfort of your home and generate emails,” Herth notes. Though some statistics officers reach out by phone, many more are learning the importance of visiting with believers at Feast, at a class, or in the homes where gatherings are held, to get to know them and to aid in recording the activities. “It’s about building relationships and keeping a focus on the spiritual aspects of the work — love, fellowship, spiritual conversation,” Herth notes.

Last year’s national gathering wouldn’t have succeeded except for the resolve to carry forward the gathering of statistics as support to a spiritual enterprise, with the Regional Councils at the helm, Herth adds.

“We have made progress since the tool was first adopted in the United States in 2007. … Our goal now is to see the work as part of the natural and spiritual unfoldment of the Plan itself,” she says. “Statistics are a natural part of the planning process.”


What is SRP 3.0?

It’s the third major version of a computer application developed by the Universal House of Justice to analyze pertinent statistics from the local to worldwide levels. It uses data to draw attention to strengths, track progress and identify patterns of growth, equipping agencies and institutions to determine the next set of goals to be adopted.
SRP 3.0 combines the functions of earlier versions of SRP — used for years by Area Teaching Committees to gather basic information on community size and functioning — with data collected by the training institute at cluster level.

With this information a variety of reports can be created including the cluster growth profile, an assessment tool designed to support reflection and planning in three-month cycles. Some of the questions that can be answered using SRP 3.0:

  • How many participating children, junior youths, youths and adults reside in a locality, neighborhood, cluster, region or country?
  • Where is activity in the neighborhood, cluster, or region and at what level of intensity?
  • What capacities are available in one territory that could be useful to another territory?
  • How is a neighborhood, locality, cluster or region shaping its devotional character?
  • Where are communities responding to the spiritual aspirations of the young?
  • How and where are new believers being supported?
  • Where are vibrant communities being created? Where is teaching surging?


What’s next?

A secure online version of the application is being developed by the Bahá’í World Center. It will be accessed through a web browser, making the application accessible by multiple users and available to users with various types of computers.

If you have questions about the Statistical Report Program, contact the National Statistics Office (NSO@usbnc.org).

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