In 2017, the State of Colorado and the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab (Colorado Lab) at the University of Denver partnered up to design and launch the Linked Information Network of Colorado (LINC). LINC is a collaborative based out of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) that supports timely and cost-efficient research, evaluation, and analytics. LINC has the ability to integrate data across state and local agencies including human services, health, labor and employment, higher education, housing, K-12 education, and criminal justice.
Colorado policy leaders and data science partners launched LINC with the recognition that the state is devoted to a “local control” government approach and holds a strong commitment to the protection of individual privacy. Given this environment, a reasonable question frequently arises: how has LINC successfully brought partners from so many disparate public systems to the table to commit to purposeful data sharing?
The “secret sauce” for LINC has not been a technical solution or a legislative mandate. In fact, during its launch phase LINC has operated on an annual budget of less than $350,000, is entirely voluntary, and produces actionable analytics with minimal technology investments. Rather, the success of LINC is its dedication to a partnership model that is flexible, respectful, and responsive at every step.
The LINC design team spent considerable time one-on-one with agency leadership, data privacy officers, and other relevant staff to review a proposed governance approach and tweak it to the preferences of potential early adopters. With technical assistance from Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), LINC borrowed best practices from other state and county cross-system data solutions to create a proposed model for Colorado.
The LINC collaborative landed on a federated model where each partner maintains complete control of their data until they approve a project and send data to the centralized linking hub for integration and anonymization for end users.
Responding to the input collected from potential partners, the LINC Director developed a three-tier legal framework designed to ensure a common, high-level commitment to collaboration among LINC data partners while providing flexibility in lower-level agreements to allow data partners to meet their legal obligations. Lastly, LINC performed no arm twisting or teeth pulling to bring data partners to the table. Rather, the team fostered relationships and asked public officials how data sharing could help solve persistent problems.
With LINC’s commitment to being flexible, respectful, and responsive, if there was no foreseeable benefit for a partner to engage, then the team moved on.
When we look across our network sites, the Colorado one stands out for its day-to-day responsiveness to government leaders in the state.
Currently, the Office of Information Technology supports the technical aspects of LINC’s work while the Colorado Lab supports LINC’s business, data partner and client needs.
While the long-term vision is for LINC to be mostly sustainable through user fees, the salary of the LINC Data Scientist was supported by the Office of eHealth Innovation (OeHI) through October 2021 and the LINC Director by the Colorado Lab through April 2021.
Whitney LeBoeuf is the Director of Data Integration and Analytics at the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab and the LINC Director. She works to develop actionable information through strategic government partnerships, smart use of administrative records, and applied research. She led the development and launch of LINC and supports the onboarding of all data partners and LINC projects.
Dr. LeBoeuf previously worked for 10 years at Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), a national organization supporting states and counties to leverage their administrative data to produce analytics for data-informed decision making. Dr. LeBoeuf has a Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in Applied Statistics from the University of Denver.
John is motivated by his desire to work with data that can improve people’s lives. He is a data scientist with many years of experience in merging datasets, analytics, and statistical modeling. This gives him the expertise needed to be a primary player in the Linked Information Network of Colorado.
John has also worked in both the private sector, in banking and as an entrepreneur, and in the public sector, as an attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services. His understanding of the legal and practical challenges faced by government agencies in linking data is critical to the success of the Colorado Lab’s data initiatives.
Erin is passionate about and dedicated to using data to improve programs and systems that support the health and well-being of children and families at increased risk for poor outcomes, and particularly to achieving socioeconomic and racial equity. She has a background in evaluation, research, and public health with state and community-based organizations in Texas.
Erin joined the Lab to support the data management and analysis needs of the Linked Information Network of Colorado (LINC) and the research and evaluation needs of Lab projects in the health and child welfare spaces. Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Erin worked with the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin as a research associate and at the Texas Department of State Health Services in the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section as an epidemiologist. Erin holds a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Depauw University.
Val is a project manager who thrives at the intersection of people and technology. She was drawn to the Lab because of its focus on relationship-building and the use of data to address social issues in Colorado. She employs her organizational and people skills to ensure the success of Linked Information Network of Colorado (LINC) projects.
Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Val worked as a project manager for the Colorado Department of Human Services where she provided COVID support to the State’s 24/7 facilities. In that role, she honed her skills in meeting facilitation, process implementation and improvement, and project planning and execution in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment. Val earned her bachelor’s degree at the Loyola University of Chicago and is a Certified ScrumMaster.