SSP Program Data and Reporting Hacks

This section has 8 hacks in it.
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Pema Chödrön
This section discusses how to make sure your program is meeting the needs of your community and introduces tools to assess the quality of your services, monitor your organization, and evaluate your success and challenges. It also gives a brief overview of the reports that are needed for most SSPs and gives some tips for executing them well. Like everything in the Hacks, this section is merely an overview; there are many in-depth guides on these essential topics in the resource section.

Why data?

Coming of age during an era that vilified people who used drugs, harm reduction arose at intersections of lived experience and research. As an untested set of interventions which undermined core existing approaches like abstinence-only drug policies, harm reduction had almost no funding opportunities in the beginning. One exception were research grants that allowed for pilot projects of harm reduction interventions to be tested and allowed some funding to trickle down to folks doing grassroots work.

Defining Terms and Methods

Readers may be familiar with some or all of the following terms and concepts. They are defined here for clarity in a harm reduction context.

Interacting with Participants: Best Practices for Data Collection at SSPs

It’s important for SSPs to ground any research or data collection they do in the insights and best practices for working with marginalized folks. The following are some of the best practices for collecting data from participants in harm reduction programs based on the experiences of harm reduction leaders.

Monitoring, QA, QC, and Evaluation

There is often confusion about the methods and processes of collecting data and monitoring vs. quality assurance vs. quality control vs. evaluation because all of these processes provide data and information about how well a program is doing.


Monitoring includes all of the raw data regarding your program. These are your “program stats”. Monitoring can also refer to “disease monitoring”, which is tracking the number of people in a given community who have a certain disease.

Quality Assurance & Quality Control

Quality assurance is the process of creating plans to ensure that your program is meeting the needs and expectations of your participants. Quality assurance is proactive.


Effective program evaluation is a systematic way to improve and account for public health actions by involving procedures that are useful, feasible, ethical, and accurate. Essentially, evaluation looks at whether or not a specific intervention was effective from several different perspectives. While monitoring creates raw data, evaluation is the analysis of that data.


Reporting is the process of writing up your data and analysis. Reports fall into two broad categories internal and external. This article also discusses best practices for creating reports.

More Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
Suggest a Resource

External Resources

Collected from around the web
There are a number of external resources that contributed to the development of Harm Reduction Hacks. Here are a selection relating to this section:


The hacks on this site are shared with you under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. This allows you (with attribution) to adapt content for your own use, although we do ask you to then also allow others to have equal access to anything you develop. More details of this licence can be found on the Creative Commons website.


We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.

Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation. 

Harm Reduction Hacks site design and implimentation by Nigel Brunsdon

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