Harnessing The Power of Collective Data

How An Alliance of Employment Providers Are Using Data in SETWorks To Shape Legislative Decision-Making

About the Community Employment Alliance (CEA)

The Community Employment Alliance (CEA) is an advocacy association made up of employment service providers throughout the state of Washington. CEA members represent roughly 70% of the state’s budgeted providers.

Members: 40 providers

Individuals served by CEA members: 4,700 individuals

SETWorks in Washington

Location: Washington

“SETWorks understands our needs and has the foresight to think about other variables we haven’t thought of yet. That’s a recipe for a really strong partnership.”

Courtney Williams // Executive Director, Community Employment Alliance (CEA)


A lack of data to advocate for employment services

For the past 22 years, CEA and its members have advocated for and promoted quality employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the state of Washington.


Examples of their successful advocacy include policy changes such as eliminating subminimum wage and statewide school-to-work. Currently, CEA is advocating for a rate increase to help stabilize the workforce.


Educating elected officials and other stakeholders has been critical to CEA’s success. “Employment is often at risk because of competing needs and limited funds,” explains CEA Executive Director Courtney Williams. “We have solid relationships with our partners. Specifically, we work with our funders, the Governor’s office, legislators, community members and family members to help them understand why employment is a need and make sure everyone is getting those needs met.”


But as Courtney has experienced firsthand, getting the data together to support their advocacy efforts wasn’t always an easy task.

“We have the federal side, the state side, the county side, and then we have providers,” explains Courtney. “All those different layers add so many complexities to how data is tracked and entered, creating opportunities to think about streamlining.”

CEA has been partnering for and advocating with people with disabilities, families, businesses, and elected officials to advocate, educate, and promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Washington state since 1974.

CEA recognized the need to streamline data tracking and communication between these groups of partners. They recognized the importance of being strategic about the types of data providers were collecting to support future legislative priorities.


“There was going to be data that we’re not even thinking about collecting yet that we’re really going to need to know,” adds Courtney.


With so many important initiatives on the horizon, having access to the right data at the right time, so they could take it and tell a story, was going to be critical for CEA.


Using SETWorks to surface compelling data

Having multiple members use a robust database like SETWorks has helped providers and government partners strengthen their data tracking to improve client outcomes.


As part of the rate increase initiative, the state conducted a study to gather current costs of delivering employment and community inclusion services. Several provider agencies used SETWorks to collect data provided for the study. 

“SETWorks really knows our population well. They know what trends and data we need to collect so that we can tell our own story,” says Courtney.

CEA holds two conferences per year where they honor community leaders and employers who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing inclusive employment efforts

SETWorks’ software has enabled CEA members like AtWork! to streamline their data collection efforts and make sure they are tracking the right kinds of information.


In turn, CEA has been able to work with members like AtWork! who also use SETWorks, to aggregate their data to understand trends across the state.


“A big issue for providers is that tracking and entering data takes a lot of time — especially when you have systems that don’t talk well to one another. There’s a lot of value in having a data system like SETWorks that is user-friendly and can efficiently pull the information that is needed without all the other cumbersome details,” says Courtney.

SETWorks empowers its clients by providing everything they need through one platform.

“Last year, when we were developing our legislative one-pagers about what’s happening in the field, we were able to pull from our members some incredibly powerful data and for those agencies who use SETWorks it was exponentially less of a time-consuming task,” says Courtney.


Throughout the process, Courtney was impressed with the SETWorks team’s willingness to work one-on-one with CEA and its members to individualize what they need. 


“SETWorks has been so great about working with us on customizing things so that we’re able to pay attention to what we need to be paying attention to, so we can tell a better story,” explains Courtney.


Advancing state-wide policies through quality data

As a result of CEA and its members’ success, other Washington providers and government partners have seen the value of having a strong database like SETWorks.


Today, over half of CEA’s 40 members use SETWorks to manage their data. Members who may not use SETWorks use other data tracking methods, and are able to easily collaborate with those who do use SETWorks.

“Because so many of our members are using SETWorks, we are able to get a really good story and good numbers easily, so that we can do our due diligence when asking for things from the state,” explains Courtney.

One of the benefits of being a CEA member is participating in policy-affecting political advocacy at the Washington state capitol

Looking ahead, Courtney is already thinking about other ways CEA can use data to support their advocacy efforts and tell their story more effectively — and she sees SETWorks as an indispensable part of that.


“As we progress down the field, we’re going to need to be able to track more and more intricate details, and we’re going to have SETWorks as the center of that.”


Courtney says that SETWorks’ national perspective is part of what makes their partnership so effective. CEA even invited SETWorks to present at their Legislator Townhall about the importance of having everyone track data consistently.

“SETWorks is invested in other states outside of ours, and they bring us good ideas from what they learn,” says Courtney. “Because they understand our field, when something is relevant, they bring it to our attention. Working with SETWorks has been incredibly beneficial.”

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