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Paperwork Is Peoplework!
Your Statistical Reports at Work

Shirley Phillips
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 2, April-May 2001, pp. 32-33

I wasn't always interested in statistics. In fact, math was not one of my strong points or interests in school, and in my former life as a registered nurse I was delighted with the development of speedy calculators and wheel charts that did the work of calculating medication dosages and IV flow rates. So what has changed? Why am I now writing an article on statistics?

Like so many La Leche League Leaders, because of my involvement in and love for La Leche League, I have gained a new awareness of and appreciation for different fields of learning. I have learned new skills and developed interests in areas I never would have considered without the impetus of serving La Leche League. Now I am fascinated with statistics, especially LLL statistics, and I'm becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with spreadsheets and computer programs like Excel, much to the amazement of family and friends.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the information you keep track of and send along in the monthly meeting reports or Leader activity forms? Have you felt at times that record keeping and reporting were extra work without much importance? Have you wondered if all the statistics that are forwarded along the support channels of the Divisions/Affiliates and LLLI are actually used?

Accurate statistics provide a wealth of information with many different benefits.

They can:

  • Provide incentive to change or improve.
  • Foster healthy or positive competition resulting in gains that benefit many (membership or World Walk goals).
  • Provide validation that the Group or Area or LLL entity is healthy.
  • Provide information that will be helpful to other LLL entities.
  • Stimulate questioning-a research frame of mind-that could lead us to explore new directions.

When you look at the information in the chart below, what questions come to your mind? What would you like more information about and how might you gather that information?Statistics compared over time periods can show developing trends, and consideration of trends is an important part of planning and allocating resources. At the LLLI Directors meeting in October 2000, the Division Directors, the Director of the Leader Accreditation Department, the Directors working in the LLLI office at Schaumburg, the Deputy Director, and the Chairman of the Board spent a full afternoon considering some of the information you have provided. We looked at membership statistics since 1986, considered the trends revealed by the statistics, and identified a wide variety of factors that could have an impact on membership figures.

We were not surprised by the steady downward trend of membership numbers, but it was interesting to note that the two, sharpest drops in membership occurred between 1990 to 1992, and between 1993 to 1995. Since 1995, the downward trend in membership numbers has slowed considerably. Could LLLI be on the verge of an upswing in memberships? What was causing the change?

We worked to identify societal factors influencing membership numbers. Considering those various factors was intriguing and helped us focus on those we can influence through our work for LLL. For example, three of the factors identified seemed to fit together.

Generally there has been:

  • increased availability of breastfeeding information;
  • increased breastfeeding support by health care providers that focuses on the mechanics of early breastfeeding (e.g., the initiation of breastfeeding);
  • a perception of La Leche League as the place to go for help with breastfeeding problems, rather than a source of support for sustaining breastfeeding (duration of breastfeeding).

Perhaps, if we want to increase memberships, we need to emphasize the wealth of knowledge and support within LLL that helps mothers sustain their breastfeeding relationship with their baby. La Leche League needs to also be known for its success in promoting duration of breastfeeding. We need to present La Leche League as not only providing help when mothers are faced with difficulties but also as helping mothers experience the joys of breastfeeding.

By the end of that October meeting, the walls were covered with flip charts full of ideas for consideration and plans in the making. Each Division and Department identified specific ways they could influence membership and plans to promote membership growth.

This is just one example of how the information you gather and send along is utilized and valued.

Many years ago, Sue McCrae, a Leader in British Columbia, Canada wrote an article called "Paperwork is Peoplework" and the ideas Sue shared have stayed with me. Wherever you are within the support network - Leaders, administrative Leaders in Areas, Regions, Divisions, Affiliates, LLLI, LLLI Board of Directors - each report is a point of contact, communication with another Leader who cares. She cares about the Leader sending the report and about the information she is sharing. Each number on the report, or on the spreadsheets developed from the reports, represents people - Leaders in touch with and helping mothers, responding to requests for information from health care providers, Leaders helping to support other Leaders, Leaders working with Leader Applicants. When I see those numbers, I think of all the ripples of information and support flowing out into our world and the ripples of information and support flowing throughout La Leche League. Each piece of information contributes to building the picture of the whole of La Leche League worldwide.

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